SADC convenes joint meeting with health ministers on HIV and AIDS
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers of Health and those responsible for HIV and AIDS convened a joint hybrid meeting to review progress made in the implementation of their plan of action in Lilongwe, Malawi, on 10 November.
The Ministerial Meeting, chaired by Malawi, was attended by SADC Ministers or their representatives from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The meeting was also attended by SADC Executive Secretary and His Excellency Elias Mpedi Magos and the International World Health Organization, 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).
Honourable Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health of Malawi, delivered the official remarks and said as much as the Region has invested in cross border activities that include cross-border referral system (CBRS) which allows for patient tracking and information exchange between countries with the aim of ensuring continuity of care of tuberculosis patients, there is a need to further strengthen cross-border activities in disease surveillance and response as the disease does not recognise borders.
H.E Magosi, in his welcome remarks, said the public health and related socio-economic measures that Member States have put in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, have played a critical role in containing the spread of the pandemic and helped the Region to avoid worst-case scenarios.
The Executive Secretary regretted that despite those efforts, the virus keeps bouncing back with a different variant and severity. He said the Region’s ability to effectively control the pandemic lies, in part, in its capacity to quickly roll out and expand vaccination against COVID-19 to larger populations.
On another note, he highlighted that the Region welcomes the recently announced malaria vaccine and believes that the advent of the vaccine will accelerate the pace towards malaria elimination. H.E Magosi urged the Member States to seize the opportunity that the new vaccine provides and expand its rollout, especially in high malaria burdened countries.
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 the Member States to incorporate emergency and humanitarian responses in their national development planning, in order to meet the immediate demands of a crisis without disrupting on-going developmental programmes.
The Ministers reiterated their call for the waiver of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the voluntary technology sharing on vaccine manufacturing.
They reiterated their decision to optimise the use of existing regional pooled procurement mechanisms such as Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAAT) and the SADC Pooled Procurement Services to acquire vaccines and other pharmaceutical products at flexible terms.
Ministers approved the Operationalisation Plan for the Windhoek Declaration on malaria elimination in the SADC Region and urged the Member States to develop and implement key policies to accelerate progress towards malaria elimination
Ministers also approved the following strategies:
(i) SADC Regional Malaria Elimination Strategy and its implementation plan and urged the Member States to increase financial support to national malaria control programmes in order to sustain the gains achieved during the pre-COVID-19 period
(ii) SADC Hygiene Strategy and commended International Cooperating Partners for supporting the development of the Strategy
Ministers further endorsed the African Development Bank (AfDB) Strategy on Quality Health Care Infrastructure.
In an effort to improve the state of nutrition in the Region, the Ministers recommended the establishment of a regional centre of excellence on Stunting Reduction and endorsed Malawi’s proposal to host the Centre of Excellence on Stunting Reduction.
The Ministers also urged the Member States to accelerate the adoption of the multi-sectoral action framework to improve the diets of young children.
Ministers noted progress on the roadmap towards the development of the SADC Food-Based Dietary Guidelines and directed the SADC Secretariat to engage Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support the Member States to develop national Food-Based Dietary guidelines aligned to the Regional Strategy over the period 2022-2023 and report progress.
They urged Member States to scale-up implementation of evidence-based targeted HIV prevention interventions and commended International Cooperating Partners for supporting HIV and AIDS response in islands Member States.
Ministers approved the concept note of the operationalisation of the SADC Regional Health Financing Hub and directed the Secretariat to mobilise resources for its establishment.
The Ministers further noted the findings and recommendations of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment on Accelerating Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Health Services for Adolescents and Young People Evaluation report and urged Member States to renew the ESA commitment during the upcoming International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in December 2021 and to facilitate its implementation.