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WHO Proposes Creation Of African Public Health Emergency Fund, Strategy To Reduce Alcohol Use In Africa

During the 60th session of the Africa Committee of the WHO on Monday, Luis Sambo, regional director of the WHO for Africa, proposed the creation of a public health emergency fund to provide financial support to African countries in emergency situations, Agencia AngolaPress reports (8/30).

According to a WHO press release, Sambo’s proposed $100 million African Public Health Emergency Fund (APHEF) would be “financed from agreed appropriations and voluntary contributions from member states.” The goal of the proposed fund would be “to mobilize, manage and disburse additional resources from countries for strengthening national and regional capacities and systems to identify, verify, notify and respond rapidly and effectively to epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases. It will also address the health impact of natural and man-made disasters, humanitarian crises, and other under-funded public health emergencies of national and international concern.”

The release adds details on previous discussions on the creation of an APHEF and elaborates on how the fund would operate. “It is expected that the establishment of APHEF – which will be run as a regional intergovernmental initiative dedicated to mobilizing additional resources for preparedness and response to outbreaks of diseases and other public health emergencies – will make a significant and sustainable contribution to mitigating the socioeconomic impact of epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases in countries in need and contributing to poverty reduction as part of the Millennium Development Goals,” the press release states (9/1).

Also during the meeting, Sambo proposed a strategy to drive down the rates of “harmful use of alcohol and related problems in the Africa Region,” according to a second WHO press release. “In the African Region, the alcohol-attributable burden of disease is increasing with an estimated total of deaths attributable to harmful use of alcohol of 2.1% in 2000, 2.2% in 2002 and 2.4% in 2004,” according to the release, which adds that high rates of alcohol use are believed to contribute to the spread of infectious disease.

The “priority interventions proposed in the strategy include developing and implementing alcohol control policies; strengthening leadership, coordination and mobilization of partners; generating awareness and community action; providing information-based public education; improving health sector response; and strengthening strategic information, surveillance and research systems,” the press release states (8/31).