WHO regional committee for Africa meeting set for Zimbabwe

Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek – The 67th session of the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional committee for Africa will be convened in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from 28 August to 01 September 2017 to discuss and deliberate on public health issues of regional interest.

WHO Regional Committee for Africa is the governing body of WHO in the African Region. Its purpose is to set policy and approve the budget and programme of the work of WHO in the region.

The committee comprises of health ministers from the 47 countries in the region to formulate policies governing matters of an exclusively regional character; intensifies efforts to develop regional health policies and programmes in support of national, regional and global strategies for health for all. Other roles include  monitoring, control and evaluation functions to ensure the proper reflection of national, regional and global health policies in regional programmes and the proper implementation of those programmes.

Participants are expected to deliberate on issues pertaining to health systems development towards universal health coverage in the context of the Sustainable Development Goal in the Africa Region.

According to a document on the WHO website, the global body emphasises the need  for member states to ensure the availability and coverage of health and related services, increase the population protected from financial risk, enhance health security, improve client satisfaction and address interventions targeted at other Sustainable Development Goals  that impact on health.

“This action framework presents the approach Member States need to consider in order to strengthen and realign their health systems to ensure that they are able to achieve their health development goals. It represents a foundational plan for Member States to ensure that health is playing its role in facilitating movement towards sustainable development,” the statement reads.

Other issues expected to top the agenda includes the global eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013 to 2018.

The long-term strategy that addresses what is needed to deliver a polio-free world by 2018 belongs to the World Health Assembly’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative.  The plan sets directions to eliminate and contain all wild, vaccine-related and sabin, which is a live but weakened strain, of the polioviruses by 2018.

The plan has four objectives namely to detect and interrupt all poliovirus transmission, strengthen immunization systems and withdraw oral polio vaccine; contain poliovirus and certify interruption of transmission; and plan polio’s legacy.

According to WHO, polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 37 reported cases in 2016. As a result of the global effort to eradicate the disease, more than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis.

For instance, Namibia reached polio-free status in 2014, following polio outbreaks in 2006. The Ministry of Health and Social Services said it managed to control the outbreaks through the process of monitoring the viral illness by collecting stools and continuing with immunisation campaigns during the births of children.

“As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world,” WHO said.

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