By Vincess Okushi 

Health ministers from across 47 African countries will be meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Seventy-third session of the Regional Committee for Africa.

The Regional Committee is the WHO decision-making body that convenes annually to discuss and endorse regional policies, activities and financial plans to improve health and well-being on the continent.

A statement by WHO on 24 August 2023 revealed that the seventy-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa will kick off on 28 August–1 September 2023 In Gaborone, Botswana and called for the full participation of member states either in-person or virtually, via the online link.

The opening ceremony will be at the Gaborone International Conference Centre, the venue for the meeting.

WHO: About 500 participants, including WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti, ministers of health from the 47 Member States, senior health ministry officials, representatives of United Nations agencies, civil society, bilateral and multilateral organizations and other development partners are expected to attend this annual flagship event.

HIGHLIGHTS

Sunday, 27 August 7:30-10:30 Walk the Talk

On the eve of the 73rd Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa, the Government of Botswana hold the Walk the Talk event to encourage everyone to be physically active and make healthy lifestyle choices. Starting point: Gaborone International Conference Centre.

Monday, 28 August 9:00-12:00 Opening Ceremony

The 73rd Session of the WHO Regional Committee opens with remarks from H.E Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Botswana, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Monday, 28 August 13:00–14:15 Side event: Intergovernmental Negotiating Body for Pandemic Treaty and International Health Regulations (IHR) amendment processes

Towards ensuring that Africa’s priorities are optimally represented in both the Pandemic Treaty and the amended IHR, this event will provide an update on both processes, while mobilizing the active participation in the negotiations by African Member States.

Tuesday, 29 August 09:00–10:30 Regional strategy for expediting the implementation and monitoring of national action plans on antimicrobial resistance 2023–2030

In response to the threat of antimicrobial overuse, misuse and abuse in humans, plants and animals across the region, compounded by the risks posed by substandard and falsified medicines, African Health Ministers will review for adoption of a new strategy to bolster the country’s interventions. One of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity, bacterial resistance has been directly linked to over one million deaths in sub-Saharan Africa annually.

Tuesday, 29 August 11:00–12:15 Framework for implementing the global strategic directions for nursing and midwifery 2021–2025 in the WHO African Region

Nurses and midwives are key to the attainment of global health goals. Yet, in the African Region, 3 million more nurses and midwives are needed by 2030 to achieve the 40 per 10,000 population ratio for optimal health care. African Health Ministers will consider for adoption of priority interventions and actions to close this critical gap through, among other things, training and investment.

Tuesday, 29 August 14:30–16:00 Special event: Strengthen multisectoral actions to address the nutrition and food insecurity crisis in the African Region

The severity of the food insecurity and nutrition crisis in the African region, negatively affecting the health and welfare of hundreds of millions of people on the continent, requires urgent multisectoral action and partnerships for meaningful, sustainable impact. This special event aims to amplify understanding of the root causes of Africa’s broken food system, galvanize political will and share information about successful, sustainable interventions.

Wednesday, 30 August 09:00–10:30 Regional strategy on diagnostics and laboratory services and systems 2023-2032

This new regional strategy, to be considered for adoption by the Regional Committee, foregrounds the acute regional shortage of diagnostic and laboratory services, and how this negatively impacts patient care, disease prevention and research. The proposals aim to address the gap by integrating diagnosis into essential health services, developing comprehensive diagnostic lists, improving health technology management, and boosting relevant education and training.

Wednesday, 30 August 10:30–11:00 Framework for sustaining resilient health systems to achieve

Universal health coverage and promote health security 2023–2030

Given the region’s disproportionately high burden of public health emergencies arising from epidemic-prone diseases, extreme weather events, humanitarian crises and other acute public health events, African Health Ministers will review for adoption of a new framework centred on primary health care, as a resilient foundation for achieving UHC and enhanced health security.

Wednesday, 30 August 14: 15–15:30 Framework for implementing the global alcohol action plan 2022–2030 in the WHO African Region

Alcohol consumption, a routine part of the social landscape in many societies, is associated with 200 diseases and injuries, including cancers, heart and liver disease, suicide, road accidents and violence. African Health Ministers will consider for adoption of this strategy, which has been updated for the first time in 13 years, aimed at significantly reducing alcohol-related morbidity and death.

Wednesday, 30 August 16:00–18:00 Special event: Interrupting the transmission of all polioviruses in the African Region

As the African Region marks the first anniversary of the last detection of wild poliovirus Type 1, this high-level special event will feature updates on the Polio Eradication Programme and Global Polio Eradication Initiative accomplishments, the way forward, and the polio transition plan. Presentations will also touch on enhancing surveillance, strengthening routine immunization, and innovative strategies including using the nOPV2 vaccine, to eradicate polio.

Thursday, 31 August 09:00–10:30 Regional multisectoral strategy to promote health and well-being 2023–2030

To tackle the triple burden of communicable diseases, noncommunicable diseases and an increasing number of health emergencies, this new eight-year strategy, for review and adoption by Health Ministers, prioritizes a multisectoral approach to transform health and well-being on the continent. Leveraging existing structures, finances and capacities, the strategy aims to unite health and non-health sectors. 

Thursday, 31 August 18:45–20:45 Side event: Building a foundation of Africa free of cervical cancer: reaffirming commitments to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem in the African Region

This event will spotlight the disproportionate burden of cervical cancer in the region, which has a significant negative impact on women’s health. Despite effective available interventions, including the HPV vaccine which has a 97% prevention rate, cervical cancer remains the most common cause of cancer-related deaths among African women. It will bring together member states, multilateral, donors and civil society organizations to seek solutions to low vaccine coverage towards the ultimate elimination of the disease.

It is expected that at the end of the event, workable solutions will be applied towards addressing healthcare challenges in the region

 

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