SADC ministers of health and ministers responsible for HIV and AIDS met recently to review progress on the implementation of regional policies and programmes for addressing public health issues in the region. This they did within the context of SADC Protocol on Health and the Maseru Declaration on HIV and AIDS.
A news release from SADC states that ministers also agreed on common positions to be adopted at international fora namely the African Union (AU) and World Health Organisation (WHO). The release said the ministers were also to participate in the commemoration of SADC Malaria Day, held over the weekend at Victoria Falls, under the theme Strong Partnerships Sustain Gains in Malaria Control and slogan: Combining Efforts - Key to Success.
The chairperson of the SADC ministers of health and ministers responsible for HIV and AIDS, and Minister of Health and Child Care of Zimbabwe, Dr David Parirenyatwa officially opened the meeting. He outlined achievements and challenges recorded by the region in the fight against major communicable, emerging and re-emerging diseases, especially Ebola Virus Disease.
Ministers received status reports from SADC member states on the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health with special focus on the agreed priorities in the areas of disease control, maternal, newborn, and reproductive health, health education and communication as well as health systems strengthening.
Ministers noted that the SADC region continues to experience a huge burden of communicable diseases. The big three, namely HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria remain the largest contributors to morbidity and mortality across SADC.
The meeting noted that declines in new HIV infections of 26% and above were recorded in eight member states between 2001 and 2011. Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe recorded declines in new HIV infections among adults of between 26% and 49%, thus, surpassing the global target.
The TB burden remains high in the member states, but significant achievements have been made in diagnostic and provision of TB treatment. The Ministers also took note of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases and the need to address them.
Ministers commended the region for the use of ICT in health communication such as print and electronic media, which influences behavioral change, thereby contributing to the realisation of positive health outcomes.
Ministers commended member states for measures taken to prevent the spread of Ebola in the region, including the containment and control of Ebola in the DRC, which was declared Ebola free. In this regard, ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation of internationally advocated state of preparedness and response guidelines for Ebola and have continued to adhere to International Health Regulations.
Ministers also reiterated their continued logistical, technical and financial support to Ebola affected countries in West Africa.
Ministers further reviewed and approved key strategic documents that will guide SADC public health priorities and for regional co-operation and integration.
In this regard, Ministers approved key documents including the SADC Code and Action Plan of Conduct on TB in the Mining Sector, minimum standards for the Integration of Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV in SADC, framework of Action for Sustainable Financing of Health and HIV in the SADC Region and the establishment of Public Private Regional Partnership in complimentary health financing.
Ministers also endorsed WHO AFRO decision of strengthening health care systems in the continent through universal health coverage and further regard universal health coverage as a flagship of health care reform.