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Despite Financial Crisis, Africa Must Focus On Health, Rwandan President Says At WHO Regional Meeting

Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the opening of the 59th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, urged delegates from across the continent to focus on promoting health, New Times/allAfrica.com reports (Nambi, 8/31).

More than 500 delegates from 46 countries are expected to attend the five-day meeting, Bonaventure Nzeyimana, the summit coordinator, said. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Michel Sidibe, the head of UNAIDS, are “some of the top officials” addressing the meeting, New Times/allAfrica.com reports in an article previewing the summit (Kagire/Musoni, 8/31).

Though the summit comes in the middle of a global financial crisis and the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic, Kagame said policy makers should move ahead with health advancements. He said, “We should use this opportunity to reflect deeply on Africa’s … health systems which any unbiased observer would readily describe as ‘gravely unhealthy,'” according to New Times/allAfrica.com. He highlighted efforts in Rwanda to increase healthcare access. “It is not pre-ordained that our continent must remain impoverished, illiterate, and in poor health – and if we can make the noted modest achievements in Rwanda, a country that is by no means rich, we can do even better regionally and continentally,” he said.

Chan “noted that progress on health-related Millennium Development Goals is still patchy especially as far as maternal mortality is concerned,” New Times/allAfrica.com writes, adding that “Chan challenged African health leaders to break through the barriers and transform the prospects for better health on the continent” (8/31).

On Monday, Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO regional director for Africa, presented a 56-page report, which outlines “a package of intervention priorities” aimed at improving health by 2013 as part of strategic goals, the Angola Press reports. The proposal focuses on collecting better health data, improving the mobilization of resources, scaling up health training and increasing disease surveillance and health research. Sambo also addressed the scarcity of financial resources (8/31).

According to a seperate Angola Press article, Sambo was re-elected as regional manager of the WHO in Africa, “with 45 votes, among 46 possible votes, during an act attended by almost 500 delegates.” The article includes a profile of Sambo (8/31).

New Times/allAfrica.com examines Rwandan First Lady Jeannette Kagame’s visit to Project San Francisco, an HIV/AIDS vaccine research project based in Kigali. The first lady chaired a session Monday on the initiative’s progress at the WHO Regional Committee meeting for Africa (Kagire, 8/31).