Photograph — Voice of America

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Union (AU) Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding binding their mutual commitment to facilitate vital health goals in Africa. This took place at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva between Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairman of the AU Commission, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

The agreement follows a political declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which all 193 UN Member States approved at the United Nations General Assembly in September. The Memorandum includes key areas of collaboration that will secure health coverage in Africa.

Providing technical expertise and assistance to the African Medicines Agency (AMA) is a major aspect of the MoU. A feat which can only be achieved by creating an enabling environment to foster local production of medicines and a better access to medicines that are high-quality, safe and effective.

“Too many of our brothers and sisters either don’t have access to the medicines they need or use medicines that are substandard or falsified,” said the Director-General of WHO. 

The agreement also aims at strengthening the collaboration between WHO and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to build AU Member States’ defenses against epidemics and other health emergencies.

Following the death of over 1500 people in June as a result of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the AU together with WHO now strive to contain disease outbreaks by engaging in long-lasting health security measures in Africa.

Tedros Adhanom revealed that WHO will establish the African Volunteer Health Corps and support efforts to strengthen the health workforce in different AU countries. The World Health Organization will also support the development and implementation of national action plans for health security, including advocacy for better preparedness and multisectoral engagement amongst countries.

The Memorandum will work in line with Addis Ababa’s Call to Action on universal health coverage and the AU Declaration on Domestic Financing, which was endorsed by the African Union Summit earlier this year.

A move which symbolises a commitment by all African Union countries to increase domestic investment in health which is essential for achieving UHC. With the best investment in UHC being primary health care, WHO admonishes countries to increase their investment in primary health care by 1 percent of GDP.  There will also be a dialogue between the Health and Finance Ministers in AU countries to develop strong and sustainable health financing models.

Following the implementation, this MoU will drive universal health coverage in Africa whilst encouraging the local production of medicines and developing the technical expertise of medical professionals on the continent. 

By Treasure Nnabugwu.

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