On Monday, African leaders, public health experts, top researchers, and scientists convened in Lusaka, Zambia, to explore and evaluate diverse strategies for overcoming barriers in global health on the African continent.
The discussion, said to be of great importance to the region, is holding at the 3rd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA).
Speaking at the official opening ceremony of the conference, the Director-General of Africa-CDC, Jean Kaseya, said this year’s conference, themed: “Breaking Barriers: Repositioning Africa in the Global Health Architecture,” is significant as the region aims to take charge of its public health and prepare for future pandemics.
Mr Kaseya said CPHIA 2023 could not be happening at a more important time, noting that African countries have shown extraordinary resilience in recent disease outbreaks, including Ebola, cholera, malaria, and COVID-19.
He said the region has shown the world what it is capable of with fast action and strong leadership in the face of various disease outbreaks.
“Africa faces significant barriers, but through our collective resilience and ingenuity, we are breaking down these barriers,” he said.
Mr Kaseya said among all efforts by African leaders, it is important to remember five key principles, which he said can guide the leaders in repositioning Africa in the global health architecture.
He said these principles are community, connectivity, capacity, collaboration, and climate.
He said the region cannot make progress in building a resilient health system if it fails to involve the community, noting that communities are the backbone of every effort made by the leaders.
He said parents, health workers, and religious and community leaders are all parts of the community and must be carried along for the continent to achieve its aim of a strong health system.
“We cannot make the kind of progress we need to without listening to their concerns, bringing them to the decision-making table, and engaging them in every step of implementation.”
The director-general also said connectivity is a major principle that can guide the leaders in repositioning Africa in the global health architecture.
He said: “Digital technology is dramatically changing how we do our work and we must tap into this potential. Innovations will allow us to gather data, monitor trends and make decisions in real-time– allowing us to significantly improve our public health response.”
Mr Kaseya also said capacity is an important principle that must be considered, noting that the region needs skilled, well-equipped, and committed workforce to get the work done.
He urged the leaders to commit to building skills, retaining talent, and filling gaps where they exist.
On collaboration, Mr Kaseya said the region can achieve so much more by working together – “across sectors and geographies and this is the only way it can have an impact that is sustainable.”
He explained that Africa is feeling the impacts of climate change acutely, noting that the region has learnt an incredible amount in its efforts to prevent and contain disease outbreaks. “So let’s apply that same energy to addressing our changing planet.”
“We have a great opportunity in our hands – to chart a new course, create health systems capable of withstanding the inevitable shocks, and reposition the continent in the global health architecture,” he said.
“I hope you feel energised by the sessions over the coming days and walk away from CPHIA 2023 ready to actively contribute to changing our trajectory. I know I will.”
Strong partnerships, collaborations
In his remark, the President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, said the role of collaboration in building a resilient public health system cannot be overemphasised.
Mr Hichilema said African leaders must develop the habit of collaboration and partnerships to ensure the continent becomes a force to be reckoned with.
“The conference is unique because it talks about health in a holistic point. Health for one, health for families, health for countries, and health for all,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the WHO director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said he is confident the Africa region will play a pivotal role in the future of humanity’s health over the next century.
Mr Ghebreyesus said the region has the capacity to break barriers in global health but that political will is required to achieve it.
CPHIA is an annual conference organised by Africa CDC. The conference provides a unique African-led platform for leaders across the continent to reflect on lessons learnt in health and science and align on a way forward for creating more resilient health systems.
The organisers said the four-day conference will spotlight cutting-edge research and innovations, and present African-led solutions to public health challenges
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