SADC health ministers take stock

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By Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek – The health ministers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) on Thursday met in Windhoek to take stock of progress made on the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health and other regional policies and programmes.

The joint meeting was attended by ministers of health and those responsible for HIV and AIDS. The meeting that started on Monday discussed progress and challenges faced during the implementation of the health, HIV and AIDS and nutrition programmes.

“Most importantly, the ministers have seen the importance of nutrition and its contribution to regional development and have since prioritised the implementation of the SADC nutrition work plan,” SADC Deputy Executive Secretary for regional integration Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo said.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, emphasised the need for SADC member states to ensure that health policies and programmes echo the rights-based approach that underscores the principles of universal coverage as encompassed in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan.

“I applaud the region for the progress made in ensuring universal health coverage by taking steps to put in place the requisite policy and legislative framework in order to make it realistic. However, it is now up to the SADC ministers of health and those responsible for HIV/AIDS to ensure that it translated into action,” he said.

Haufiku used the opportunity to congratulate member countries that have managed to meet and exceed the 90% mark in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

He also recognised efforts made by member countries in the reduction of new HIV infections, although he said the progress is very slow towards achieving the set target of reducing new HIV infections by 75% by 2020.  

On his part, Mhlongo said the meeting that ended on Friday took place at a time when SASDC was going into the last year (2019/20) of the implementation of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).

“Several valuable lessons have been learned from the implementation of these strategies and progress has been registered in the implementation of specific interventions in both health; and HIV and AIDS sectors.

“Some of these will be presented in the meeting and it is my hope that we will receive the much-needed guidance and support to improve and further make the region a better place for development and regional integration, peace and stability,” Mhlongo said.

He said a number of other very strategic and important regional development imperatives have been adopted by the Summit of Heads of State and Government in the last few years.

These include the recently approved Windhoek Declaration on Malaria Elimination, Framework for Target Setting for HIV Prevention in the SADC region and the HIV prevention 2020 scorecard, the SADC HIV and AIDS Cross-Border Initiative and Actions on TB in the mining sector.

“Most importantly, the ministers have seen the importance of nutrition and its contribution to regional development and have since prioritised implementation of the SADC nutrition work plan.

“Indeed; the list of achievements and progress is endless, mine was just to remind all of us that we have come this far and we need to continue working together to address challenges that the sector is faced with in the region. All these will require coordinated and integrated approaches where maximization of synergies and improved cooperation is central,” said SADC official.

He added that the meeting “considered and discussed progress and challenges that were faced in the implementation of the health, HIV and AIDS and nutrition programmes including progress in the implementation of the decisions of the summit, council and sector ministers at their previous meetings.

Emerging issues in the health sector formed part of the discussions. It further updated on the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the SADC Pooled Procurement Services, among other things.  

Meanwhile, the SADC ministers responsible for health and HIV and AIDS adopted the Windhoek Declaration on Malaria Elimination at a meeting held on Wednesday in the capital.

During the Malaria Elimination 8 (E8) Ministerial Committee Meeting, the governments have re-affirmed their commitment to eliminate malaria in the region in accordance with the SADC Protocol on Health and the SADC Malaria Elimination Framework.

They vowed to eliminate malaria in Botswana, Namibia and eSwatini by 2020 and in the whole of SADC by 2030, which will result in zero local malaria cases and deaths.

The framework further tasked the region to develop a roadmap that outlines the priority measures and paves way for successful elimination in the region as well to ensure that member states have established national elimination taskforces within their countries to advance the elimination agenda.

The region has also pledged to intensify cross-border collaborations between member states to address border areas where malaria transmission is persisted as well as to share routine data to ensure rapid national and regional responses to the malaria outbreak.

At the meeting chaired by Zimbabwe Minister of Health, Dr Obadiah Moyo, who took over the chairmanship from eSwatini, member countries also pledged to intensify resource mobilisation by committing to additional domestic financing for malaria elimination to ensure malaria programmes are adequately funded and national targets are met. Moyo said the issue of malaria elimination will require efforts to accelerate cross-border initiatives and that the three countries namely, Mozambique, South Africa and eSwatini should work together to accelerate from control to pre-elimination in southern Mozambique so as to achieve zero local transmission in eSwatini, South Africa and parts of Mozambique.

Moyo said the E8 Secretariat hosted by the Republic of Namibia presents a good model, which has been adopted by the Sahel region, this is a testimony to the lessons that other regions are learning from the initiatives in the SADC region 

 He, therefore, urged SADC ministers responsible for health, labour, immigration and local government to initiate the implementation of the declaration and monitor progress to achieve the intended objectives.

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