Honourable Chairman and elected officers of the Sixty-seventh session of the Regional Committee;
Honorable Ministers of Health and Heads of Delegations;
Representatives of bilateral and multilateral cooperation agencies;
Esteemed colleagues of WHO and sister UN Agencies;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me start by wishing all our Muslim colleagues Eid Mubarak.
As we come to the end of the 67th Session of the Regional Committee for Africa, I’m sure you will agree that this busy session has gone very smoothly, thanks in no small part to the wonderfully relaxed setting here in Victoria Falls. Some days might have been gruelling, but I’m very pleased and proud that you remained engaged throughout, and they were offset by some wonderful social activities.
Again, I’d like to once again extend my sincere gratitude to His Excellency, President Robert Gabriel Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe, for his presence at our Opening Ceremony, and the government and people of Zimbabwe for successfully hosting this 67th session.
Special thanks go to the Honorable Minister of Health of Zimbabwe, Dr. David Parirenyatwa, for his excellent and skillful chairing of this Regional Committee meeting, and to the Ministers of Health of Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire for their duties as deputy chairs.
My thanks to all the Honourable Ministers of Health and Heads of Delegations for your enthusiastic participation.
Honorable Ministers, you’ve taken some very important decisions during this Regional Committee. We’ve just heard about the 6 strategies and frameworks you adopted - on environmental determinants of health, STIs, ending fever, strengthening health systems for Universal Health Coverage, human resources for health, and noncommunicable diseases.
In addition, several cross cutting issues emerged during this Regional Committee meeting.
One of these was on advocacy for high level political commitment, and domestic resource mobilization which will be particularly important for UHC and noncommunicable diseases. It will be strategic for us not only to engage with these leaders, but also use their platforms such as the African Union, to help mobilize domestic resources.
We also heard about the need for country ownership and multisectoral collaboration, which is essential for Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Agenda.
In this regard, and as promised at last year’s RC, we launched the tool developed with Member States at one of our many side events, to guide you on strengthening health systems for achieving sustainable development goals.
I’m very encouraged to hear how a number of you are moving forward with introducing UHC:
- Zambia is introducing a social health insurance bill, and is significantly increasing domestic allocations to health;
- Zimbabwe has innovative plans for a national health fund through a 5c levy on cell phone calls and mobile data;
- Guinea’s multi-partner compact, led by the President, has increased resources for enabling UHC, allowing 4000 health agents to be posted in peripheral areas;
- Cabo Verde has forged a strong partnership with the private sector which is strongly involved in the SDGs.
At the side event on Polio, we were reminded that the Region can only be certified to have eradicated polio if 3 years have passed without wild poliovirus confirmation, AND polio surveillance performance has been maintained at certification level.
Ladies and gentlemen, a number of countries are below surveillance certification level, with an entire absence of information in some. This level of performance is our biggest risk of not being certified.
I urge all the Ministers to have oversight of polio eradication, reinforce surveillance, and be more vigilant as we push towards eradicating polio from the African continent by 2019.
In conclusion, I kindly request the Honourable Minister of Health of the Republic of Zimbabwe to convey our appreciation to his Excellency, President Robert Mugabe, for the wonderful hospitality and contribution of Zimbabwe and its people for the resounding success of this meeting. Though this was a very intense programme, we were still able to enjoy the unique beauty of this location.
I’d like to acknowledge and thank the translators, interpreters and members of the media for their invaluable contributions to this event.
I am very grateful to my WHO colleagues for their hard work and perseverance in making this meeting a success.
I particularly want to acknowledge the new Director-General, Dr Tedros Gebreyesus, for dedicating so much time at our Regional Committee for Africa, his first RC as Director-General. Please feel free to contribute further comments to the 13th General Programme of Work.
Also, our dear friend, Dr Asamoah Baah, the Deputy Director-General: for a short time, Africa has the honour of having two highest serving officials in WHO. We’re grateful for all his contributions and advocacy for the continent over the years.
My thanks to the Republic of Senegal for agreeing to host the 68th session of the Regional Committee in Dakar from 27 to 31 August 2018.
Finally, I’d like to wish you all a safe journey back and we look forward to working with you in implementing the actions we agreed on during this Regional Committee.
Until we meet again, I wish you all the best.