Mauritius celebrated World Cancer Day 2024 against a backdrop of rising cancer cases, in line with global trends. In fact, the International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Health Organization (WHO) predict that new cases worldwide will increase by 50% annually over the next 15 years, and 77% by 2050. This increase in cases is due to an aging population and the increased exposure to risk factors such tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diets, pollution and insufficient physical exercise.
The main theme of World Cancer Days since 2022, namely Close the Care Gap, aims to mobilise the necessary attention and resources to ensure that the rising burden of cancer can be addressed in an equal manner across the globe and that all people in the world have access to systematic testing, and early diagnostic and treatment. Today unfortunately inequality of access lead to unequal cancer outcomes between developed and developing countries, this celebration advocates for such inequalities to be reduced in the coming years.
During a ceremony to launch World Cancer Day 2024 organised by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), the WHO representative (WR) in Mauritius, Dr Anne Ancia, provided a reminder of the global cancer toll. In 2022 alone, more than 20 million new cancer cases were detected across the globe, while 10 million people lost their lives to the disease. “Many of these fatalities could have prevented or at least delayed,” she explained.
Public health emergencies arising from multi hazards and threats continue to be a major concern, especially in the African Region with more than 100 public health emergencies reported and responded to annually.
To enhance swift, effective and coordinated prevention, preparation, response and recovery to these emergencies, the International Health Regulations recommend the establishment of a functional Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) to serve as the ‘nerve centre’ for preparation and response to public health emergencies.
Mauritius strives to have an established PHEOC with a well-established incident command and control system, with the necessary well trained core workforce, tested standard operating procedures, well equipped physical facility where results from surveillance and/or early detection of alerts can be managed in a timely manner and lead to swift and effective response of public health emergencies to subsequently reduce the health and socio- economic burden on the country.
Mauritius has successfully developed its second national action plan on anti-microbial resistance (AMR) 2024-2028, through a three-week robust workshop supported by the World Health Organization. This comes following the evaluation of the first national action plan (NAP) 2018-2022 by the same team from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) in September 2023.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness of Mauritius has shown great concern about the burden of AMR. A significant number of deaths in Mauritius can be attributed to hospital-acquired infections, many of which are caused by drug-resistant organisms. The global findings are also worrying with 1.27 million deaths caused by AMR while a further 4.95 million deaths are associated with AMR in 2019.
The WHO Representative Dr Anne Ancia has underlined the high rates of multi-drug organisms reported at hospital level and most importantly in the intensive care units. The growing rates of AMR and the decline in new antibiotics emerging on the pharmaceutical market are likely to accentuate the problem of lack of treatment for resistant infections contributing to higher mortality rates.
The Covid-19 pandemic has left major impact globally. Mauritius has been very efficient in responding to the pandemic through various measures established during the crisis. Although the response has been swift, the toll on the health of population as well as the socio-economic implications cannot be undermined. Among the key lessons learned, the need for strengthened preparedness and real-time early warning systems are of high priority. Mauritius thus endeavors to consistently strengthen its public health emergency preparedness and early warning system through the upscaling of its Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) System.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) with the support of World Health Organization has therefore made major progress in IDSR this year through 1. the adaptation of the 3rd edition of the WHO technical guidelines for IDSR to meet Mauritius context, 2. the capacity building of healthcare workers through training of 46 trainers and 151 regional Health Care Workers on IDSR, 3. the initiation of a national cascade training of IDSR aiming to train 7000 health professionals in 181 health facilities in the Republic of Mauritius by December 2024, and 4. the revision of the list of priority diseases that will be part of the real-time surveillance and early warning system.
Port Louis. With the aim to continuously improving food safety for greater health outcomes, Mauritius has made a leap of progress in achieving leadership in the Codex Alimentarius Commission through the implementation of the Codex Trust Fund (CTF) “Building Codex Mauritius” Project. Mauritius is the only African Country selected by the CODEX Trust Fund for support in 2019.
This 3-year project administered by World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) aims to build strong, solid and sustainable national capacity to engage in Codex Alimentarius Commission at global and regional levels.
This project was officially launched in June 2023 by the Minister of Agro-industry and Food Security in the presence of the WHO Representative in Mauritius, other Partners and national stakeholders. WHO supported the country to (i) adapt the Codex Procedural Manual and establish procedures for submission of comments, national positions, and participation/follow-up in Codex committees; (ii) enhance understanding and awareness of the importance of Codex among high-level policy and decision-makers, industry and scientific community, government officials and consumer activists and (iii) improve dissemination of information on the relevance of Codex and preparedness to generate data to contribute to the right level of information in development of global, regional and national food safety standards.
A high level meeting with key ministers and decision makers in July 2023 provided valuable insights to draft the National Codex documents which were validated before the capacity building sessions held in August 2023.
Port Louis. Mauritius achieved another milestone in its quest to improving health and wellness of older people and promoting healthy ageing through training of a core team of trainers from multi-disciplinary background on integrated care for older people (ICOPE).
Over the past few decades, Mauritius has been experiencing a rapid ageing of its population. The percentage of people aged 60 years and above was 9% in the year 2000, 18.7% in the year 2021 and the figure is projected to increase to 36.5% in the year 2061.The “oldest, old people”, the population over 80 years, is projected to increase more than twofold by 2061, adding pressure to the health system and requiring adaptation of health services to the specific needs of elders.
In June 2022, a national strategy to proactively respond to the health needs of older people, the integrated care for older people (ICOPE) strategy and action plan 2022-2026 was developed with the support of WHO and launched by the Prime Minister in March 2023.The training of a core team of trainers was therefore a step forward in the implementation of this important strategy.
“It is the Government’s vision to effortlessly diagnose the health issues of the elderly at an early stage and allow them to live a better life”, said the Health Minister, the Hon. Dr Jagutpal, who also added, “my Ministry will leave no stone unturned to promote better medical assistance and uplift the quality of health care for our elderly persons who have worked very hard and contributed to the development of the country.
The training of trainers on ICOPE was conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), the Ministry of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity (MSISSNS) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Senior Citizens Council, the largest association of senior citizens in Mauritius; the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Association of Mauritius, and the Club Le Flamboyant (the association of retired workers from the Civil Service) have been involved in the adaptation and dissemination of ICOPE in Mauritius and in this training.
This Thursday 14 September was a wonderful day for CELEBRATING HEALTH in Mauritius.
Indeed, around ten thousand men, women and children joined the “Walk for Health, Walk for Life” March organized by the Ministry of Health and Wellness with the support of WHO for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the World Health Organization in Moka, close to the Capital, Port Louis.
The Prime Minister who was just back from G20 on Wednesday led this 4.5 Km March with the Minister of Health and Wellness, the Minister of Education, the WHO Representative, the Head of UNDP and the Resident Coordinator Office, the Ambassadors for Japan, China, US and Bangladesh.
Behind them was a long queue of school's children, members of youth association, women association, association of the elderly persons, the Academia, NGOs, community leaders, religious bodies, public officers, the Mauritius Police Force, and more, coming from all corners of the Island.
The slogan “HEALTH FOR ALL, LA SANTE POUR TOUS” was in all mouth while health promotion messages on the prevention of healthy lifestyle and against non-communicable diseases risk factors were seen on multiple banners carried by teams among the crowd and accompanied by the music of Mauritius Police Musical Band and the Majorettes.
Mauritius has become the first African country to fully implement the entire World Health Organization’s (WHO) package of tobacco control measures aimed at reducing tobacco use and reducing related deaths.
The Rodrigues Health Commission, Mauritius Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW), with support from WHO, conducted a sub-national (Rodrigues) public health risk profiling exercise from 29 May to 02 June 2023 to better understand risks and prepare for future public health emergencies in the Island of Rodrigues.
The exercise is subsequent to similar risk profiling assessment at national level performed in February 2023 in Port Louis where it was recognized that Rodrigues island comes with its own, distinct vulnerabilities and unique topography, urging for a specific sub-national public health risk assessment and mapping.
The meeting, attended by 28 multisectoral experts, used the Strategic Toolkit for Assessing Risk (STAR) to identify and prioritize the Island 's public health risks. The STAR toolkit is guided by the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction commitments. It was used to assess potential public health risks for all existing identified hazards in Rodrigues.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness partnered with the World Health Organization to cost and validate the Mauritius National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) during a five-day workshop in April 2023.
With the support of WHO, the country was able to finalize the action plan to strengthen the national health security system drafted in November 2022. This multi-year action plan for Health Security draws on multisectoral engagement using the One Health approach to strengthen Public health emergencies detection, early preparedness, and swift response. It has been aligned with the Global Health Security strategy and the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) which recommends countries to strengthen, monitor and evaluate their IHR capacities for the early prevention, protection, control and response to the spread of diseases.
As a signatory of the International Health Regulations (2005), the Republic of Mauritius has already conducted voluntary and external assessments such as, respectively, the State Party Annual reporting (SPAR) and the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) which provide insights into strengths and weaknesses in compliance with IHR capacities. Results of these evaluations, coupled with lessons learned from the national response to the COVID 19 Pandemic have enabled to identify all necessary actions to improve national capacities and define the national action plan for health security.
The country initiated preparatory work led by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in November 2022, with the participation of different ministries including Agro-Industry and Food Security, Education, Environment, Finances and Planning. A draft strategic action plan was thus developed and subsequently costed and validated in April 2023.
The NAPHS represents an important achievement for Mauritius showing political commitment and multi-sectoral engagement to advance a comprehensive preparedness and response plan to strengthen the health security of the country. It is a milestone that sets the country to invest smartly to further protect its population and to minimize effects of outbreaks and pandemics.