Statement of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis G. Sambo at the opening of the XIV Health Days in Mozambique



  • Honourable Minister of Health of Mozambique;
  • Honourable Deputy Minister of Health;
  • Distinguished Members of the Management of the Ministry of Health;
  • Director of the National Institute of Health of Mozambique;
  • Mr President of the Scientific Commission of the XIV Health Days of Mozambique;
  • Illustrious Lecturers and Researchers;
  • Distinguished Guests;
  • Dear Colleagues;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen;

On behalf of the World Health Organization, I would like, first and foremost, to express my deep feeling of satisfaction and honour for the invitation the Minister of Health sent to us to participate in the XIV Health Days in Mozambique.

This major health event being organized under the theme: “Contribution of research institutions towards health improvement in Mozambique” will certainly address topical subjects of major relevance and interest to public health in Mozambique.

After a careful analysis of the programme of the Health Days, we note that the topics are very pertinent, covering issues related to the functioning of the health system, social determinants of health and risky behaviours associated with diseases. Maternal and child health and diseases of high prevalence in Mozambique such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and some chronic diseases deserve due attention with regard to their clinical, public health and laboratory aspects, thus supporting the vision of the National Institute of Health of Mozambique which is seeking, based on scientific evidence, to find new solutions to the health problems of the country.

In the African Region, we generally need to invest much more in scientific research to build evidence and generate new knowledge and technological innovation thereby contributing to better health systems performance and improved health status of the populations.

More recent statistics show that the WHO African Region has made progress towards achieving the MDGs. Even so, that progress remains below expectation. Malaria continues to claim many lives; efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS infection have not been sufficient to curb the persistently high incidence of HIV and AIDS; HIV/TB co-infection and the growing threat of multidrug-resistant TB pose a formidable challenge.

Furthermore, maternal mortality remains extremely high with practically no progress made in the past decade, which reflects the weakness of health systems performance.

Although infant mortality in the African Region dropped from 180 to 107 per 1000 live births over the past decade, the Africa Region still accounts for nearly 46% of infant mortality worldwide. For example, in 2011 alone, the Region recorded over 3 million under-five deaths. More than 90% of the deaths were caused by pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS and neonatal problems.

Chronic diseases, injuries from road traffic accidents and domestic violence (which is a hidden tragedy) are also serious public health problems requiring more adequate response through preventing the common risk factors such as alcoholism, tobacco use, lack of exercise and certain unhealthy dietary habits.

African countries have not been spared in occurrences of disasters, frequent outbreaks of epidemics of cholera and other diseases of epidemic potential, all of which underscore the importance of strengthening the means and mechanisms of rapid preparedness and response including systems of epidemiological surveillance and implementation of the International Health Regulations.

All these health problems call for evidence-based health systems reform. However, the production of reliable health statistics is one of the challenges we still need to address. We need statistical data and research to enable us to formulate appropriate and fair health policies.

We would like to congratulate the Republic of Mozambique for devoting such attention to health research. The fact that Mozambique already has a National Institute of Health, a national network of resource centres, a strategic plan and a prospect of having a national health research agenda is evidence of the country’s determination to establish a national health research system. However, the National Institute of Health is facing financial difficulties that could undermine plans for its extension. We therefore call for an increase in both domestic funding and external funding.

The main objectives of the National Health Research System are:

  • to organize and regulate health research;
  • to foster training of human resources and other investments such as funding and infrastructure so vital to research;
  • to produce and stimulate the use of research outcomes.

I am deeply convinced that research institutions that are gradually consolidating themselves in Mozambique will work in an interdisciplinary and multisectoral approach so that they can have a more cohesive strategy embraced by all stakeholders including the population and civil society organizations.

For its part, WHO will, as ever, continue to be a genuine and dependable partner supporting the effort of the Government for research that contributes to health improvement in Mozambique.

I trust that this Conference will give a new boost to health research in Mozambique.

May I end my address by reiterating my best wishes for the success of our deliberations.

I thank you for your attention.

Maputo, 17 September 2012