Health CS calls for enhanced collaboration as the 13th IGAD Health Ministerial meeting is held


Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has called for synergy among Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member states in dealing with challenges posed by emerging health threats.

Speaking in Mombasa County during the 13th IGAD Health ministerial meeting, the health CS said the coronavirus pandemic has necessitated the need to embrace sharing of information and data across borders to contribute to improved health outcomes and strengthened disease surveillance.

“We need to be bold and think outside the box about how to develop African solutions to African problems in health, going forward. This might be a cliché but it aptly captures our greatest lesson from the pandemic.  We know that the disruption of global supply chain led to the isolation of many Countries, especially those in the global south.” The CS told the meeting.

He said there was a need to stimulate conversations across the region and leverage on the respective comparative advantages to achieve greater efficiencies to better coordinate response to future pandemics, as well as other health emergencies and threats.

“The need for Countries to work together has been sharply thrust upon us. We now know, perhaps better than any time in the past, that Countries are more connected than ever before.  A health challenge in one Country can very easily manifest in another and therefore we cannot work in isolation.” Observed Kagwe.

According to the health CS, there was a need to reposition today’s Health Workforce for the future, not only to address challenges affecting the continent’s health sector but also to reform the workforce for the global market by enhancing their global competitiveness.

While lauding the support of international partners, IGAD chair Ambassador Magdi Ahmed said there was a need to strengthen corporation among member states in an effort to adequately prepare the region from health, food security and other emerging challenges. He said there was a need to cushion the region from shocks resulting from unexpected occurrences such as what is happening between Ukraine and Russia. He said such episodes will have negative implications on the region and could derail ongoing efforts for a peaceful and integrated IGAD.

Speaking at the same forum, IGAD Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu said IGAD will continue to support Member States to address the health needs of the under-served rural cross-border populations, refugees and host communities. This even as he expressed concern over the plight of cross-border mobile population which he said faces significant challenges in accessing basic healthcare needs thereby undermining the health security for millions of citizens in the region.

“Our mobile population still has to be tested for Covid-19 before they depart and when they arrive at their destination in the region. While this level of diligence is admirable in protecting us all from infection, it is also a vote of no confidence in each other’s health systems. We need to demonstrate that we trust each other in health matters.” Submitted Gebeyehu.

Head of IGAD mission in Kenya Dr. Fatuma Adan said there was a need for IGAD member states to support Regional Policies and Strategies as well as Health Programmes’ recommendations. Addressing the forum via video link, European Union Ambassador Aidan O’Hara said the European union remains committed to supporting IGAD members states actualize their health agenda.

During the meeting, member states signed and adopted the ministerial declaration on Health for Refugees, Returnees, and host communities and the Cross-Border Health for Migrants. They agreed to take collective responsibility that every refugee, returnee, other cross border population and members of the host communities have access to quality healthcare services within respective countries without discrimination, adopted accompanying plan of action for upscaling and improving health services for refugees, cross border mobile population, returnees and host communities as well as integrating  refugee health programs with the national health system including joint planning, implementation and reviews.

They at the same time committed to mobilize and maintain political will with particular focus on refugees, returnees and host communities especially at cross border areas, work in partnership with international, multilateral, bilateral agencies and institutions such as EU, WB, AfDB, the Global Fund, BMZ/GIZ, Africa CDC and the United Nations Agencies to address the cross border and refugee health challenges in line with national policies and guideline. They also committed to mobilizing additional domestic resources to support availability and access to quality equitable health services for cross border and mobile population and particularly refugees, returnees and host communities;

The IGAD Regional Policies and Strategies for the various Regional Health Initiatives are meant to complement the country level health agendas of IGAD Member States with IGAD now embarking on preparing post ministerial meeting plan of action and a roadmap for advocacy and implementation.