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Regional Director Of WHO Africa Warns Of Impact Global Financial Situation Will Have On Health Systems, MDGs

Regional Director of WHO for Africa Luis Sambo discussed during the 60th session of the Africa Committee of the WHO how the global economic situation could impact funding for health programs in Africa and the ability for countries to reach U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports.

In a report to the meeting taking place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, “Sambo indicated that between 2008 and 2009, Africa’s real average GDP growth rate declined from about 5% in 2008 to 2.8% in 2009, with the total GDP of countries in the African region shrinking by US$94.48 billion over the same period,” according to the news service. Sambo summarized the resulting effects such changes were having on health, including how “countries now needed to address … a decrease in per capita health spending by government, households and donors,” and a “surge in utilization of public health services as utilization of private sector health services decreases,” the news service writes.

Sambo also “said in the report that there was the need for concerted action from African governments and development partners to ensure that domestic and external funding for the health sector was not reduced,” according to PANA/Afrique en ligne.

The article details several recommendations proposed by Sambo to mitigate the effects of the global economy on the funding of the health sector in Africa, including “tracking domestic and external health expenditures, and re-prioritizing public expenditure through creating resources for health development by shifting budgetary resources from low priority to high priority areas” and “increasing private sector involvement and investing in health systems strengthening using existing and new funding from national and international sources” (9/2).

Meanwhile, Agencia AngolaPress reports on statements made by Angolan Health Minister Jose Van-Dunem on Wednesday during the conference about the importance of strengthening health services in order to meet MDG targets.

“[T]he minister stated that at district level tools should be given to administrators for the implementation of important health projects like drinkable water, environmental sanitation and access to health units,” according to the news service. “He also stressed the importance of the community participation, namely the traditional and church leaders, and the creation of a district monitoring committees of maternal and child deaths.” The article also reflects on statements made by Sambo on the subject of health system strengthening (9/1).

PANA/Afrique en ligne reports in a second story on recent progress on ramping up immunization coverage and efforts to eradicate polio in Africa, as documented in a technical report discussed on Wednesday at the meeting. “Among the achievements listed in the document is an 85% coverage for the third dose of DPT-containing vaccine in 2009, compared to 82% in 2008, with 20 member states reporting at least 90% coverage at national level in 2009,” the news service reports. “Progress was also recorded in the introduction of new vaccines such as Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenza b type vaccines in 45 and 43 countries respectively. …The document said that steady progress was reported in interrupting wild poliovirus transmission in countries with Nigeria.”

Despite such gains, the document noted the challenges associated with increasing immunization rates in the region as well as recommendations on how to overcome such challenges (9/2).