AFRICA – Health ministers in sub-Saharan Africa have pledged to revitalize the COVID-19 fight through ramped-up vaccination and sharing of best practices.

Speaking at the 71st session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa, the ministers said that containing the pandemic is key to the continent’s economic recovery.

Pierre N’gou Dimba, minister of health, public hygiene and universal health coverage of Cote d’Ivoire, said the continent could still avert the worst outcomes of the pandemic subject to ramped up inoculation, revamping of critical care facilities and adherence to virus prevention measures.

He said that collaborative research, enhanced surveillance, testing and access to timely clinical care will strengthen the capacity of African countries to respond to the pandemic.

More than 400 delegates, including health ministers, representatives of multilateral bodies, academia and civil society, are participating in the virtual conference.

The premier summit of Africa’s health ministers from August 24 to 26 will discuss new strategies to boost the COVID-19 fight, digital health, elimination of cervical cancer and improving health outcomes for the continent’s elderly population.

During a special session dedicated to the pandemic, the ministers stressed the need to tackle vaccine hesitancy besides sharing knowledge and expertise on how to curb the virus transmission in high-risk demographics.

The ministers noted that many countries in the continent are reeling from the aftershocks of a third wave of infections, adding that robust mitigation measures are required to avert strain on health facilities.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, hailed proactive steps that African countries undertook at the onset of the pandemic that averted an implosion of infections and fatalities.

“We must build on this renewed unity of purpose to strengthen our surveillance systems, bolster treatment capacities, step up the supply of crucial medicines and swiftly vaccinate those most in need,” said Moeti.

She said that investing in resilient public health infrastructure, capacity building for health workers and early warning will enable African countries to respond to future pandemics effectively.

According to Moeti, WHO has been on the frontline of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in Africa, training over 200,000 health workers and supplying critical commodities like oxygen to boost response to the pandemic.

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