AFRICA— Ministers of Health from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have taken decisive steps towards enhancing access to affordable, quality-assured, and safe medicines and medical supplies.

In a significant move towards pooled procurement of essential medicines and medical products, they established a secretariat and elected Mauritius as its host.

Madagascar has endorsed the pooled procurement program, which was signed in 2020 by Cabo Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Seychelles, which comprise the SIDS in Africa.

This initiative aims to coordinate the purchase of selected medicines and medical products affordably, harmonize medicine management systems, improve supplier performance, and reduce procurement workload.

 The program establishes guiding principles and a governance structure, including the creation of a secretariat, technical committees, and a council of ministers.

This development occurred during the 8th SIDS meeting in Victoria, Seychelles, where ministers gathered to finalize the joint procurement initiative.

Pooled procurement has been on the SIDS agenda since 2017, demonstrating their commitment to its implementation.

During the ceremony, Hon Kailesh Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness of Mauritius, expressed gratitude for the confidence placed in Mauritius to host the pooled drug procurement secretariat.

Cabo Verde’s Minister of Health, Hon. Filomena Gonçalves, congratulated Mauritius on its selection, emphasizing the unity and strength of SIDS in the African region.

Minister Gonçalves highlighted the unique position of SIDS in Africa, affirming their commitment to advancing the pooled procurement agenda in collaboration with partners such as the WHO.

At the meeting held from 25th to 27th March 2024, ministers and government representatives agreed to strengthen collective efforts and actions on health.

This included bolstering preparedness and response to health emergencies, strengthening health systems, and addressing the impacts of climate change, which disproportionately affect island nations.

Hon Peggy Vidot, Minister of Health of Seychelles, urged SIDS to unite and amplify their voices in global arenas. She emphasized that despite individual capacity limitations, collective action through SIDS can achieve significant outcomes.

This meeting marked Guinea-Bissau’s first full participation as a member of SIDS, and Madagascar accepted an invitation to join the SIDS Network initiative and participate in pooled procurement efforts.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, hailed the meeting as a milestone, noting the fruitful discussions and impactful decisions made. WHO pledged technical support to SIDS for the implementation of agreed-upon actions.

The SIDS meeting in the African region serves as a platform for joint inputs into global SIDS events, including the upcoming Fourth International Conference on SIDS in Antigua and Barbuda scheduled for late May 2024. 

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