KIGALI - President Paul Kagame has urged delegates from across the African continent to concentrate on solutions that will promote health.
He said this while officiating at the opening of the 59th Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa, a meeting that started in Kigali, yesterday.
Kagame noted that although the summit coincided with the global financial crisis and the influenza pandemic, innovative modalities for improving health of the African people should be advanced.
“We should use this opportunity to reflect deeply on Africa’s social sector especially the state of our the health systems which any unbiased observer would readily describe as ‘gravely unhealthy’- a not so new verdict,” he said.
Kagame said that the meeting offered an ideal opportunity to reflect on fundamental questions and solutions to Africa’s poor health systems and inadequate research capabilities.
While acknowledging the importance of funding, President Kagame, pointed out that other challenges need to be overcome in order to achieve set development objectives.
“Yes, money is essential for achieving development objectives, but greater challenges lie elsewhere…no amount of material and financial resources can transform a nation without a clear political and policy purpose,” he added.
In this regard, the President emphasized the need for countries’ commitment to continuously improve the conditions of their most important national asset – the people.
Kagame highlighted Rwanda’s progress over the years as evidence that if Africans worked harder, more creatively and faster, they could get good results.
He pointed out Rwanda’s positive experience with Community Based Health Insurance and Performance Based Financing which have contributed to improved access and better quality care, as well as increased community ownership and participation in health care provision.
Reflecting on these initiatives, Kagame said that this was a clear indication that Africa had the means to change its current status of healthcare.
“It is not pre-ordained that our continent must remain impoverished, illiterate, and in poor health – and if we can make the noted modest achievements in Rwanda, a country that is by no means rich, we can do even better regionally and continentally”.
“We continue to make significant progress towards universal coverage – from 7 percent in 2003 to 85 percent in 2008,” he explained.
In his view, major factors like leadership, accountability, community empowerment also account for Rwanda’s 97 percent achievements in the national anti-malaria campaign (indoor residual spraying).
The Director General WHO, Dr Margaret Chan also commended Rwanda’s remarkable recovery from the events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, describing the country as one of the most stable and orderly countries in Africa.
She however noted that progress on health-related Millennium Development Goals is still patchy especially as far as maternal mortality is concerned.
Chan challenged African health leaders to break through the barriers and transform the prospects for better health on the continent.
“The policies must be right and the money must be used effectively and efficiently. This is all very true at a time of global economic recession, a climate that is changing for the worse and an influenza pandemic that is now unstoppable,” she said.
Festus Mogae, former Botswana President and chairperson of “Champions for an HIV-Free Generation” commended Rwanda’s strides in national reconciliation and reconstruction under the leadership of President Kagame.
He also hailed the nation’s effort in combating HIV/AIDS.
“We should all be champions in the fight against HIV/AIDS if we are to win the battle.
In this regard, I would like to urge you all to double you effort in this call and I congratulate President Paul Kagame for his great achievements in the health sector which were only done as a result of his dedicated leadership.”
Over 500 delegates and health ministers from the 46 member states of WHO are attending the high level summit that is slated to end on Friday.