Africa Needs to Learn From Covid-19 to Prepare for Future Pandemics – Phaahla

Africa continuously needs to reassess its public health approach and use lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for future resurgences.

This is according to Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, who believes that the approach will also help improve the resilience of the continent’s health system.

The Minister was speaking on Monday during the 72nd Session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Africa in Togo.

“It is our view that the health system needs to be properly reset so that it can properly recover from the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, a holistic approach to resetting health systems is more likely to yield desired results not only for the recovery but also for building back better,” he told delegates.

According to Phaahla, one of the biggest lessons from the pandemic is the power of committed leadership and partnerships.

These also include the importance of technology, analytics, and empowering communities to play a central role in disease control and health emergencies.

“We cannot afford to regress on these. The continued work on reforming the Secretariat to better respond to the needs of Member States remains important,” he stressed.

The weeklong talks bring together Health Ministers and representatives from 47 African countries, experts and other stakeholders in the region and across the globe.

The engagement will define the continent’s health policy and take stock of the specific needs of the region.

The Head of State of Togo, Faure Gnassingbé, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus and the WHO Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, officially launched the meeting.

The delegates will focus on several issues, which include Universal Health Coverage, vaccination, the fight against epidemics, medical equipment, the quality of care, the management of health emergencies and financing for the health sector.

Phaahla commended the WHO’s Regional Director and the Secretariat for the achievements during the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic moves into the endemic phase, it is most timely and prudent to integrate the preparedness and response functions into the routine health systems and services.”

While the integration of “COVID-19 services” is essential, Phaahla said it could only be effective and sustainable, when the broader policy actions towards addressing more “fundamental systemic issues” is also in place.

“We therefore note with interest, progress reported in the areas around the work on emergencies, covering the response to acute and protracted emergencies, and the support provided to the Member States to build their capacities for preparedness and response to future emergencies.”

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