Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Assistant Director-General, Health Emergency Intelligence, WHO, called on Africa to urgently strengthen public health institutions.
Hilary Bainemigisha
Editor @New Vision


The conference on public health in Africa (CPHIA 2021) concluded its Day Two on December 15th with a call to build and own a new public health order as Africa for Africans.

 The virtual conference, which was convened by the African Union (AU) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), brought together political leaders, senior policymakers, scholars, advocates, and innovators. 

It was meant to discuss how to create a new public health order for the continent, collaborative research, and enhanced surveillance to boost response to future pandemics.

It started on December 14 with more than 10,000 participants and will close on December 16. It was opened by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Other presidents expected to attend CPHIA 2021 include Presidents Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of DR Congo and Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa, who is also Chairman of AU.

The main discussion on the second day was on COVID-19 research capacity, advocacy, manufacturing and distribution in Africa, the COVID-19 and equitable health system strengthening in Africa as well as the case for a New Public Health Order for Africa.

 Dr. Benido Impouma, Director of Universal Health Coverage, WHO Regional Office for Africa, called on countries to strengthen their vaccine manufacturing capacities. 

He argued that this is possible if Africa can bolster regulatory agencies, develop the necessary human resource potential and attract financial and technical investment.

Other speakers were Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary-General of the African Research Universities Alliance, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, UNAIDS and Prof. Petro Terblanche, Managing Director, Afrigen Biologics.

Other topics included assessing Africa’s response to COVID-19 in order to prepare for future health threats, digitalisation, modelling and analytics to support an effective public health response and Agenda 2063: Africa’s move to combat COVID-19 and other emerging diseases.

 The inaugural conference comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a wake-up slap to the face of Africa which was left stranded as its previous sponsors withdrew to take care of their own people and affairs first. 

Africa remained starved of health services, products and access to global vaccines and scientific innovations.

According to the conference organisers, today, less than 20 African countries met the global goal of vaccinating at least 10% of the adult population by September 30, while nearly 90% of high income-countries met this target.

 In Uganda, 14.3% (6,525,371) have received one jab and 2.3 (1,287,700) are fully vaccinated. 

This is less than the Africa average of 7% and far below UK’s 69.6% of fully vaccinated people. 

Developed nations are even taking further booster shots as Africa is still looking for first shot vaccines.

The other plenary session of the day was about equitable Health system strengthening in Africa. The Special Envoy for the African Medicines Agency, AU, Dr. Michel Sidibe, explored case studies that can inform innovative approaches to building strong health systems in Africa. Dr.

Michel Hamala Sidibé, a board member of The Global Commission on Drug Policy, discussed what equitable and effective Health system will look like in 2063.

 Rwanda Minister of Health, Lt Col Dr. Tharcisse Mpunga talked about the lessons from the COVID- 19 Vaccination Programme: the new Information Systems and alternative delivery mechanisms to deliver health services and products to people effectively.

 UNICEF’s Deputy Chief, Global Immunization Program, Benjamin Schreiber, discussed digital innovations and logistics of providing COVID-19 vaccines to Africa.

 Professor Tulio de Oliveira, the Director, KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), discussed how to refine Health Policy and Systems in order to manage endemics.

The other Plenary session discussion was on the case for a New Public Health Order for Africa.

Panelists, who included Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Assistant Director-General, Health Emergency Intelligence, WHO, called on Africa to urgently strengthen public health institutions. 

Other strategies suggested include decentralizing public health engagements for more efficient implementation, bolstering capacity for local production of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, while creating significant investments in the health workforce and leadership programs.

The other discussion was on economic and social recovery and future-proofing Africa’s health system.

The last day of the conference will assess the response to COVID-19 in Africa in order to prepare for future health threats. Agenda 2063, of a united Africa in managing health challenges will also be discussed.

CPHIA 2021 is a virtual event and is free for all participants. 

It will feature seven scientific plenaries and eight parallel sessions, and more than 40 side events that focus on the main pillars of the African Union’s New Public Health Order to meet the aspirations of Agenda 2063 – the Africa We Want.


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