By Mourice Seretta
AIDS Watch Africa (AWA) is convening experts working at the frontline of the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria across African Union (AU) Member States for a two-day consultative meeting. The experts will take stock of the progress of implementation of key policies formulated to advance address AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria response in Africa. The experts will contribute recommendations which will be compiled into a report presented during the upcoming AU Assembly of Heads of States and Governments in 2021.
“The pandemic has revealed to us an ability to come together, develop a collective response to address a common challenge in an accountable manner. With the economic recovery estimated to be slow, it will require twice as much effort for AU Member States to sustain the gains achieved over the past decades especially in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases. The deliberations you will therefore have today and tomorrow as representatives of Member States, are very important in shaping the action taken by Africa’s leaders and the communities we serve towards a healthier future in the continent. I call for openness, transparency and generosity in exchanging country experiences, challenges and interventions so that we can all learn from one another and move forward as a continent,” reiterated Madame Cisse Mariama Mohammed, Director for Social Affairs, African Union Commission.
“It is going to be a fruitful time when as a continent we will review the progress we have made in implementing programmes across the three diseases. We appreciate the effort that the continent has demonstrated in dealing with COVID-19. The leadership of AIDS Watch Africa, partners and key stakeholders who have joined us in the work to end AIDS, tuberculosis and eliminate malaria in Africa is well appreciated. It is encouraging to note that the targets to the fight of these three diseases are aligned to the SDG 2030, First Year Implementation Plan of AU Agenda 2063, and the Africa Health Strategy. We also appreciate the adoption of domestic scorecard for health financing. Let us take advantage of the political commitment of our Heads of States and Government and use this meeting to come up with recommendations that will help the continent move forward,” remarked Lebogang Lebese, Representatives of the AIDS Watch Africa Current Chairperson from the Republic of South Africa.
Speaking on behalf of development partners, Ms. Shu-Shu Tekle-Haimanot emphasized the importance of maintaining the delivery of essential healthcare services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“According to the Global Fund Results Report 2020, 75% of HIV-related service delivery have been disrupted. Countries are experiencing significant resource needs and rising fiscal needs on top of a health financing burden. I appreciate all the partners involved in the fight against AIDS, TB, malaria and strengthening health financing. Without their support, none of the work would be achieved,” she added.
Rosemary Mburu, speaking as the representative of Civil Society Organisations recognized that it has been a pride to see the regional, concerted effort in managing COVID-19 and that as Africa progresses to the next phase, there is positivity for a better job.
“There is potential to have the gains we have made reversed by the pandemic. Our call is to ensure that we safeguard the lessons and progress we have made as a continent. We must protect the gains on AIDS, TB and malaria, protect health systems and beat COVID-19. We do have the instruments and policies – where we stand is to ensure we have the leadership and political will that is needed. The issue around equity is also important as we seek to build back better,” she added.
Reports of progress to be shared by the experts include: The review plan of the Catalytic Framework to end AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria; Inaugural AU Africa Leadership Ministerial Meeting; and additional launches of Zero Malaria Starts with Me (ZMSWM) Campaign.
The AU plan to conduct interim and end term evaluation of the Catalytic Framework has been discussed and agreed on by the experts. The questionnaire for the interim review for the period of 2015-2020 has been finalized and will be sent to the Member States for data collection. Data on disease-specific targets achieved versus the targets up to 2020 will be analyzed and reported by end of 2021.
The Commission held its first meeting of ALM Ministers of Health and Ministers of Finance meeting for Eastern and Southern Africa Member States in October 2020 to discuss increase, sustained resources for health in Africa. The Ministers agreed to work together for change. Ministers from Central, Northern and Western Africa will convene on 17, 23 and 24 November, respectively.
Five more countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Kenya, Rwanda) have launched the Zero Malaria Starts with Me Campaign in 2020 joining 15 other AU Member States in the fight against malaria.
The experts will also deliberate on the following key issues: The new UNAIDS Global AIDS Strategy; A continental approach to strengthening leadership and governance of malaria interventions; Tuberculosis management, TB Scorecard and the Accountability framework; and the role of community health workers (CHWs) in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic whilst maintaining the momentum in addressing other health challenges.