The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers of responsible for Health and HIV and AIDS met in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, on 10th November 2022 to review the state of health with the aim of taking appropriate of decisions to improve the quality of lives of people in the SADC region.
Honourable Dr Jean-Jacques Mbungani Mbanda, Minister of Health, Hygiene and Prevention of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chairperson of the SADC Committee of Ministers responsible for Health and HIV and AIDS, commended Member States for their commitment in addressing health matters in the region.
The Minister reiterated the need for regional cooperation in uplifting the lives of SADC citizens through improved health and nutrition.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of SADC, H.E Mr Elias Mpedi Magosi, noted that despite the uncertainties that still persist on the future impact of COVID-19, SADC Member States have found innovative ways of living and returning to normal business activities during the pandemic. He observed that national economies are gradually re-opening, with a projection of economic growth in the short to medium term. in some Member States.
He further highlighted that one of the key lessons learnt during COVID-19 pandemic was the role of leadership in targeted interventions to protect public health and rethink the use of health data in managing health crises. Excellency Magosi urged Member States to strengthen the intra-regional and international cooperation on pandemic preparedness and response, well ahead of these crises. H.E Magosi said Member States must promote dialogue between stakeholders in the region, and share best practices across borders in order to build stronger, effective and resilient public health preparedness and effective response against future pandemics.
During the meeting, the Ministers urged Member States to continue to monitor the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak at both national and subnational levels using case positivity rate, hospitalisation rate as well as percentage changes in daily cases as indicators for COVID-19 resurgence and report at their next meeting.
The Ministers urged Member States to continue strengthening and expanding vaccination coverage for COVID-19 in order to reach at least 70% of the population and consolidate the herd immunity.
The Ministers noted the epidemiological situation for infectious diseases in the region; and urged Member States to intensify multi-hazard disease surveillance, with early warning mechanisms to predict and address potential outbreaks timeously; timely share information on epidemic-prone diseases, with other Member States in order to address cross-border transmission and intensify epidemic preparedness and response (EPR) activities in accordance with the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).
The Ministers noted the status of expanded immunisation programme in the region; urged Member States to collaborate with Partners to bring Zero dose children back into the national immunisation programmes and directed the Secretariat to work with Partners to support Member States in developing plans to reach the hard-to reach communities, monitor coverage and to report progress annually.
The Ministers noted endorsed the E8 Resource Mobilisation strategy to drive efforts to mobilise resources from domestic and external sources in order to maintain and protect the gains from the previous and current Global Fund grants.
The Ministers noted progress on Member States development of national mandatory Food Fortification programmes, regulations and strategies and urged Member States to invest in micronutrient laboratory testing capacity in terms of equipment and staff to facilitate compliance monitoring and enforcement of food fortification programmes and quality control of food.
In addition Ministers noted the work undertaken by Member States in developing Nutrition Budget Briefs and cost benefit analyses on investing in nutrition which highlights the benefits of investing in nutrition as it prevents nutrition related diseases and ill health and to that end, Ministers directed the SADC Secretariat to take key actions including undertaking capacity building activities on investing in nutrition, developing a tracking tool for public financing for nutrition and generate a regional synthesis report on the level of public financing for nutrition in the region
The Ministers noted the report of the 2021 SADC HIV Prevention Score Card; urged Member States to address the gaps identified in the HIV key Prevention intervention areas of the Score Card; directed SADC Secretariat in collaboration with technical Partners to assess the extent to which older women of reproductive age and other populations are left behind in HIV prevention programmes, and propose concrete measures and mobilise resources to address the gaps.
The Ministers urged Member States to foster the involvement of the Justice sector in the HIV response in order to protect rights and advance the health and well-being of all people; and promote accountability of the Justice Sector in addressing HIV, in order to strengthen access to justice for the marginalised.
In order to sustain the progress of the programmes being implemented in the region, Ministers underscored the importance of sustained health financing including public financing for nutrition and directed the Secretariat to mobilise additional resources to support the SADC Health Financing Hub which was already supporting some national level activities including national financing dialogues in Member States
The Ministerial Meeting was attended by SADC Ministers and their representatives from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The meeting was also attended by World Health Organization Africa Regional Office, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS)- East and Southern Africa and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) among others.
The Ministers also commemorated SADC Malaria Day 2022 under the theme “Resilient health systems and communities key to malaria elimination and “Timely access to malaria services, Everyone`s right”. The commemoration was held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo on 11th November, 2022.