KIGALI, June 22 (IPS) — Professor Claude Mambo Muvugni is the Director General of the Biomedical Center Rwanda. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems around the world have struggled with the effects of the disease. From the outset, Africa was considered particularly vulnerable due to several factors: limited health care in some areas, high prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis in several countries, and limited financial capacity to respond to the financial impact of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, governments across the continent still managed to come together to respond to the pandemic with unprecedented speed. This was made possible by previous experience in dealing with outbreaks such as Ebola, yellow fever and cholera with the introduction of outbreak control systems. In many ways, Africa has responded well.
However, what began as a health crisis soon escalated into an economic crisis. The pandemic has sent Africa into its first recession in 25 years. This increased extreme poverty on the continent for the first time in decades. While African economies are slowly recovering, that recovery has been hampered by low vaccination rates, budget constraints, unequal access to external financing, and growing debt vulnerabilities.
The need to increase investment in health has never been more clear. Prioritizing domestic health is one of the best investments African countries can make to secure the vision of a prosperous and peaceful continent.
To do this, Africa must meet its health commitments as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Major attention is being paid to the eradication of malaria and neglected tropical diseases.
The Summit is a landmark moment for renewed high-level commitment to eradicate malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and unlock the potential of countries to build a healthier and safer world. Malaria and NTDs, the group of 20 infectious diseases most commonly affecting the world’s most vulnerable people, continue to thrive in poor areas, poisoning the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, the vast majority of whom live in Africa. These diseases are preventable and treatable.
This year, Rwanda received WHO certification for the eradication of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), commonly referred to as sleeping sickness. To date, 45 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, and 600 million people no longer need treatment for this group of diseases. Two decades of investment in malaria control saved 10.6 million lives and averted 1.7 billion cases, significantly reducing the burden on health systems worldwide.
Over the past five years, Rwanda has made progress in its fight against malaria, reducing the number of malaria cases from 4.8 million in 2017 to 1.1 million in 2021, from 18,000 cases of severe malaria in 2016 to 2,000 in 2021, and from 700 deaths from malaria to 69 in the same period.
As Africa recovers from the pandemic, investment in malaria control and NTDs will make health systems more resilient and support long-term pandemic preparedness. Ending malaria and NTDs must be a central component of our response to COVID-19. The right mix of investment and innovation will in turn enhance our ability to prevent, detect and respond to future pandemics.
This requires political will and leadership. We know what we need to do. But we must unlock the potential of a world free of malaria and NTDs and improve the lives of millions of people. I saw the central role that leadership plays. Rwanda has received international recognition for its success in achieving universal health care through its political focus.
The Kigali Summit is a turning point. With endemic countries at the forefront, civil society, the private sector, and non-profit organizations must work together to make progress against these preventable diseases, especially based on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governments must coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders and partners towards one universal goal: building better health systems across the continent.
Moreover, donor countries must fulfill their obligations to combat the burden of disease. Prioritizing and mobilizing commitments, including a fully resourced Global Fund this year, is essential if we are to end HIV, TB and malaria and ensure a healthier, safer and more equitable future for all.
As African countries continue to work to protect their populations from COVID-19, now should be the time to prioritize investments in malaria and NTD elimination and use those investments to protect against future threats and build stronger health systems and healthier African populations. .
Simply put, Africa’s future depends on its people. A healthy population can lead to stronger economic growth and a better future for all.
© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service