The World Health Organization wants to support Africa build a stronger health system against any future pandemic.
African health experts and lawmakers have held series of discussions towards achieving this dream at a summit in Ghana’s capital Accra.
The high-level meeting focused on strengthening the continent’s health system to withstand future pandemics, drawing lessons from the Covid-19 and Ebola pandemics.
Those two pandemics wreaked havoc in Africa, destabilizing the health systems of many countries and plunging most economies into disarray.
Delegates at this week’s three-day conference which started on Wednesday and ends on Friday tare expected to fashion out strategies for effective emergency health responses.
World leaders two months ago at the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that targets how to prevent, prepare, and respond effectively to future pandemics.
WHO director general, Tedros Ghebreyesus said African lawmakers must hold their governments accountable in fulfilling that commitment.
“As parliamentarians, you are uniquely positioned to transform those commitments into reality. WHO is committed to supporting you to do that. This is particularly important in Africa where preparedness is weak and underfunded and multi-sectoral coordination is lacking,” he said in a recorded speech.
Learning from past pandemics
African health experts don’t want the continent to experience the extent of devastation witnessed when past pandemics including Ebola and Covid-19 occurred.
The WHO-Africa regional director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said there are already successes to build on from how the continent fought the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Early in the pandemic African governments supported by their parliaments took strong and proactive action to protect the populations and the economies. And the timely implementation of the recommended public and social measures averted the predicted millions of Covid-19 deaths expected on the continent,” Moeti said.
“Parliaments and parliamentarians have a decisive role in ensuring that pandemic preparedness and response are translated into action.”
Ghana’s health minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu said achieving universal healthcare for all Africans should also be a driving force and motivation for parliamentarians.
He encouraged them to draft good laws and seek funding for health programs.
“We must strive to bridge inequities in access to health care in the populations we serve. Our role in legislation, budget allocation, oversight and ratification of international agreements provides the impetus to influence and prioritize health security,” he said.
But not many Africans believe the continent is prepared for the next pandemic.
A resident of Accra told Africa Feeds that “I am not sure Africa as a continent is ready for another pandemic because looking at the previous one, I think we have failed in many ways as in how we controlled the covid-19.”
Another resident also agreed saying “We are not going to be ready for another pandemic, when it hits, we are going to once again go to our foreign donors for them to find solutions for us and it is kind of very sad.”