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By Katurak Yashim
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has commended the African region for making significant progress in malaria control in the last five years.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday, said malaria incidence and mortality rates had declined by 42 per cent and 66 per cent respectively between 2000 and 2015.
Moeti made the commendation in Kigali, Rwanda, while speaking at the First Africa Health Forum, launched by WHO, Africa and the Government of Rwanda.
She said for the first time, a malaria vaccine has been launched by the organisation offering partial protection for children, especially those vulnerable to the disease.
Moeti said domestic governments from the WHO African region contributed over $528 million to support the fight against the disease in 2015.
She said the number of adults and children newly infected with HIV in the region has also declined by 19 per cent in the last five years; from 1.63 million to 1.37 million.
According to her, the region is on the verge of eradicating polio; HIV treatment scale-up is continuing with an estimated 12.1 million people receiving anti retroviral therapy (ART) by the end of 2015.
The regional director noted that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era contributed to many of the successes in the fight against these diseases.
“By the end of 2015, maternal mortality in the Region fell by 45 per cent from the year 2000, and newborn deaths dropped by 38 per cent during the same period.
“Although there had been major improvements over the last decade, there are still critical health issues that need to be discussed and tackled in order to bring the 2063 vision of health and well being into reality.
“Africa has the advantage; as the world is getting older, our population is getting younger.
“There is so much potential to harness this vitality and energy to create health systems that suit all.
“We need to act now to safeguard the health of the youths by creating youth-friendly health services and encouraging healthy lifestyles.
“We want our youths to not just be beneficiaries of services, but to be with us at the decision-making table as we partner across sectors for a more prosperous, sustainable future for everyone in Africa,” Moeti said.
She emphasised the need to work with the private sector, African philanthropists and youths to tackle these challenges and get concrete results in improving the health of the people.
Anastase Murekezi, the Prime Minister of Rwanda, was quoted as saying “partnerships and stronger collaboration are critical for better access to quality, affordable healthcare for everyone in Africa.
He said being healthy is the basis for all socio-economic development, adding that without it nothing will work.
According to Murekezi, for this reason, African countries must work together and share experiences which will translate the 2063 vision of health and well being into reality.
He, therefore, called on countries in the region to set up strategies that would help them implement the resolutions from the forum.
He urged the private sector in Africa to invest more in the health sector, while appealing to other stakeholders to support the regions effort.
“With a rising young population, the urgent need for concrete actions to address the health of youth and adolescents will be central to the discussions at the two day forum.
“Africa is the only region in the world where the population as a whole is getting younger. People under the age of 18 make up 50 per cent of the population in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“However, despite the vitality of youths, HIV has disproportionately affected African children and adolescents; during the 30 years of the global HIV epidemic, around 17 million children lost one or both parents to AIDS.
“90 per cent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.
“In addition, the growth of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Africa has seen a rise in NCD-related deaths of 27 per cent over the last 10 years.
“If this growth continues, there will be an obvious knock-on effect on the health of young people in Africa,” the prime minister said.
The theme of the forum is “Putting People First: The Road to Universal Health Coverage in Africa”.