Africa must boost H1N1 preparedness

• No vaccine for viral disease KIGALI - The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Margaret Chan, Tuesday called on health officials from across Africa to strengthen their preparedness and response plans in the face of the current influenza pandemic.
Botswana’s Minister of Health, Lesego Motsumi during the 59th Session of the WHO Regional Committee in Kigali (Photo/ F. Goodman)
Botswana’s Minister of Health, Lesego Motsumi during the 59th Session of the WHO Regional Committee in Kigali (Photo/ F. Goodman)

• No vaccine for viral disease

KIGALI - The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Margaret Chan, Tuesday called on health officials from across Africa to strengthen their preparedness and response plans in the face of the current influenza pandemic.

This was during the ongoing 59th Session of the WHO Regional Committee that is taking place in Kigali.

Chan explained that efforts to produce a vaccine are still underway and so far only the United Kingdom and France have a few doses but are not vaccinating people as yet.

She however added that in four to six weeks’ time, clinical doses will be available.

“In the meantime, it is important for your countries to increase preparedness. Developing countries should not be waiting for the end of the line in order to get prepared because last minute resources mobilization is not good.

“Member countries should provide additional funds for their response plans from their national budgets. WHO cannot manage to deal with all the continent’s challenges as we also have priority areas to fund such as mother and child health,” Chan said.

African officials speak out

The Health Minister for South Africa, Dr Pakishe Aaron Motsoaledi, expressed fear that despite the country’s preparedness, laboratory mass testing is still a problem.

He also revealed that two churches will soon have a pilgrimage to other countries.“This will definitely increase the infection rate of a country which already has so many cases of the influenza,” he said.

According to the Botswana minister, Lesego Motsumi, there is a high demand for the anti-virals and lack of efficient laboratories to do proper tests hence delay of results since specimen are sent to South Africa.

The Namibian representative also questioned whether the vaccines will be affordable for African nations adding that Muslims’ pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia could accelerate the problem.

In response to the issues raised, Chan advised that people in the risk groups, such as pregnant women, should delay travel for any pilgrimage adding that if pregnant women show any signs of infection, then anti-virals should be given immediately.

Member states also agreed to raise a continental fund that will purposely facilitate response plans to any emergency outbreaks should they occur in future.

According to the WHO AFRO Regional Director, Dr. Louise Gomes Sambo, 50 percent of the WHO member states have cases of the influenza.

Rwanda has not registered any case yet.

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