The Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working together to advance an effective health agenda on the continent. The Joint Work Plan 2019-2020 was discussed during the Joint Sitting of the PAP Permanent Committees on Health and Gender held in Praia this week.
The Chairperson of the PAP Health, Labour and Social Committee, Hon. Aurélien Simplice Zingas Kongbelet, recognized WHO as first technical partner of PAP and encouraged to continue their role as technical advisor and “take this cooperation to the National Parliaments and establish caucuses in specific health issues such as Tuberculosis and immunization”. This statement was done during the Public Health orientation session led by WHO Officer in Charge in Cabo Verde, Tomas Valdez.
“We had a very rich year of cooperation with strong engagement and solid outcomes, since the signing of the WHO and PAP Memorandum of Understanding last February, on the margins of the AU Summit. We had regular joint meetings since then and we are planning follow-up discussions on other important issues such as maternal mortality, health security including the implementation of the International Health Regulations in the region, highlighted Innocent Ntaganira, Head of the WHO Liaison Office to the African Union (AU) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
The strategic areas for engagement of the Joint Work Plan presented by Innocent Ntaganira include Legislation, Advocacy, Budget allocation and Accountability. “Universal Health Coverage shall be the overall frame for the WHO-PAP engagement, with focused work plan aiming at concrete results, which stimulates close working relations between WHO country offices and National Parliaments Health Committees”, added.
The Health Committee sessions held in Praia were an opportunity to report back on actions undertaken until now and define the next cooperation steps. PAP adopted this year a resolution on the establishment of an African Parliamentarian Caucus on Immunization, to drive the body’s commitment to ensuring all children across the African Continent have access to the vaccines they need. The African Union Commission, in collaboration with WHO, will report back to Heads of State at the January 2020 AU Summit on progress made in attaining the 10 commitments of the Addis Ababa Declaration of Immunization.
Jean Marie Dangou, Coordinator of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Primary Prevention at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, warned of the growing burden of NCDs in Africa, perpetuating poverty and underdevelopment and expressed that “WHO is committed to reduce the preventable and avoidable burden of morbidity, mortality and disability due to NCDs by means of multisectoral collaboration and cooperation at national, regional and global levels.”
“NCDs often coexist with communicable diseases such as Tuberculosis and HIV. Tackling NCDs is central to achieving our global development goals and targets, and to ensuring gender equity, socio-economic well-being and healthy lives for all”, informed the WHO Coordinator for NCD Prevention. The meeting recommended this NCD presentation to be also made next October at the PAP ordinary session, which brings together the 270 Members of Parliament (MP).
Likewise, during the session was also discussed the NCDs Call to Action that the PAP will present in the next plenary meeting to scale up the implementation of ambitious multisectoral national NCD responses and foster an integrated approach to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This declaration is a focused and prioritized plan aligned with the current context and health system challenges for Africa that will contribute to accelerate the implementation of the WHO NCD “Best Buys and other interventions for the prevention and control of NCDs” and mobilize adequate, equitable, predictable and sustained funding for national NCD responses, while promoting specific legal and regulatory assistance including innovative financing, and national multi-stakeholder dialogue and accountability.
“I will strongly advocate for this Call to Action and NCDs presentation to be included in the agenda of the next plenary of PAP in October 2019 to convey this concern and officially launch the Immunization Caucus”, noted the Chairperson of the PAP Health, Labour and Social Committee.
The Officer in Charge of WHO in Cabo Verde, Tomas Valdez, addressed to the audience of over 50 parliamentarians encouraging them to become health champions to achieve the targets of the Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals. “It is critical for the future of the next generations to complement and integrate our actions for a common health agenda in Africa to tackle challenges such as maternal mortality, health security, immunization and UHC in our continent”, added the WHO Officer.
Furthermore, he advised that the figures presented on NCDs in Africa “should not be seen as intimidating but they must call us for action. Most NCDs are preventable and solutions are in our hands, strategies to fight NCDs are available and WHO is ready to support African countries”.
III African Tuberculosis Summit
PAP Parliamentarians showed determination to end Tuberculosis (TB) by 2035 during the 3rdAfrica TB Summit held in Praia, a collaboration between the Pan African Parliament, NEPAD, and the Africa TB Caucus that brought together up to 20 senior members of the Africa TB Caucus network and at least 20 members of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) TB Caucus.
During the opening ceremony, chaired by the President of the National Assembly of Cabo Verde, Hon. Jorge Santos, he recalled that Africa is the continent with larger development potential in the near future and resources are available if good governance prevails. To defeat TB “African countries need to be able to produce their own food, invest in education, improve quality basic healthcare services and implement public policies that create opportunities for everybody” underscored the President of the Cabo-Verdean Parliament.
Participants demonstrated sustained commitment to the aims and objectives of the Global TB Caucus to be the backbone of the regional parliamentary response to TB in the years to come.
At the closing ceremony, the Minister of Health and Social Security of Cabo Verde, Arlindo do Rosário, encouraged members of parliament to influence national policies and intensify efforts to fully implement the WHO End TB strategy, to end TB as a public health problem by 2035.
“Despite our important advances in its economic and social development, our continent could have reached other stages if we would not have the burden of epidemics such as Malaria, HIV, Tuberculosis, among others, that increase the fragility of our health systems, already per sefragile, affecting the whole economy of our countries”, acknowledged the Minister.
The Summit facilitated the deliberations on the adoption of the United Nations High Level Meeting statement of intent and develop a request for accountability to End TB, using the African Union accountability framework on TB for adoption by regional, sub regional and national bodies. The event enhanced the capacity of MPs to influence TB financing in their countries and developed a call to action plan to support the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, while boosting a closer pact between parliamentarians and civil society partners to drive a sustainable political response to the disease in each country.