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Stronger interventions and strategies to block non-communicable diseases – Health Minister

Stronger interventions and strategies to block non-communicable diseases – Health Minister

One of the key subjects covered at the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA76), was the prioritization of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as hypertension, diabetes, and cancer, which are among the leading causes of illness and mortality in the world.

“For this reason, it is important to intensify interventions and strategies to address NCDs, including promoting physical activity, controlling obesity, promoting a healthy diet by reducing intake of salt, sugar, and trans-fats, and programmes to cease smoking as well as the use of tobacco products.”

This is according to Dr Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health and Social Services, who stated this during a press briefing on Namibia’s successful participation in the 76th World Health Assembly.

The WHA76, which takes place annually, was held from 21 to 30 May in Geneva, Switzerland. The Assembly has been convened yearly since 1948 and is attended by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 194 member states. Furthermore, this year’s Assembly was attended by almost 170 WHO member states, including 47 African member states.

According to Minister Shangula, the most common topics of WHA76 include the need to reorient health systems to Primary Health Care to achieve Universal Coverage by 2030 and improve health for all per the SDGs on health and well-being.

He added that the Assembly recognized the need to address mental health issues, pointing out that globally, mental health difficulties have risen in the aftermath of COVID-19.

“This highlights the need for Member States to prioritize programmes to improve the mental health of their populations (particularly the youth and health workers), as well as to ensure and promote mental health in the workplace to improve productivity,” Shangula said.

He also emphasized the significance of intensifying mental health measures, such as rehabilitation programmes, addressing violence, providing post-trauma psychological care, and promoting physical activities and medical treatment, where necessary.

He further insisted that more than 75% of the WHO’s Base Programme Budget was funded primarily through voluntary contributions from donors, many of whom had designated their contributions to specific initiatives.

“This has led to several programmes within the WHO, which have been chronically underfunded because they are not a priority to the donors,” he said, adding that it is against this backdrop that the Namibian delegation participated in discussions at WHA76 that build on the decisions from the 75th World Health Assembly.

The Assembly also agreed to prolong some of the expiring plans, such as the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 and the WHO Global Action Plan on the Promotion of Health for Refugees and Migrants 2019-2023.

Dr Shangula emphasized the importance of improving the Organization’s financial sustainability by gradually increasing Member States’ assessed contributions to cover at least 50% of the WHO’s Base Programme Budget by the biennium 2027-2028.

“This would substantially reduce the share of the budget financed by voluntary contributions of donors and substantially increase the flexibility and predictability of funding to the WHO. I am pleased to report that this year’s Assembly approved the initial 20% increase in the member state-assessed contributions, which is the first step towards achieving sustainable financing for WHO.

“Moreover, the Namibian delegation also advocated for the bulk of WHO’s programme budget to be prioritized away from its Headquarters and towards countries, considering that it is at the country level where the greatest impact of the WHO’s work,” according to Dr. Shangula.

He stated that the delegation informed the Health Assembly that Namibia is working on a Food Safety Bill to regulate and provide for food quality assurance, such as salt reduction, sugary and fizzy drink control, and trans-fat reduction in food. According to him, the delegation also reported that Namibia has made significant progress in finalizing the Mental Health Bill.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe, thanked Dr Shangula for his leadership and assistance to the ministry, not only as head of the Namibian Delegation to the WHA76 but also as Minister of Health.

He noted that Dr Shangula is an unshakeable pillar of wisdom and leadership for the ministry’s personnel, resulting primarily in Namibia’s robust participation in WHA76.

“Moreover, I wish to thank all of our development cooperation partners and partners in health, most notably the WHO, for their continued support in fulfilling the mandate to provide preventative, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative health and social services to all people in Namibia,” he remarked.


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