The WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) conducted the first WHO Africa Health Forum on June 27 and 28 in Kigali, Rwanda. The purpose of this forum was to discuss priorities and challenges related to health under the theme “Putting People First: The Road to Universal Health Coverage in Africa.”

The more than 700 delegates participating came from various backgrounds: not only African governments, health and finance ministries and U.N. agencies were represented, but also intergovernmental agencies, academics, civil society, philanthropic foundations, the private sector and youth organizations were included.

The event was initiated as a platform to discuss the advancement of the health-related U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa, including the achievement of universal health coverage (UHC), to develop strategies to further public health and to foster partnerships and collaboration among stakeholders across the continent.

The forum’s participants reviewed the progress in health made in recent years and identified challenges, highlighting the remaining need to fight ‘old enemies’ like HIV and malaria, as well as address new threats posed by climate change and non-communicable diseases.

The forum was concluded with a call to action, in which the participants committed themselves to a number of aims, most importantly keeping UHC as the overarching approach to attain the SDGs. They also committed, among other things, to sustain political commitment and increase financial investments, and to focus on affordable healthcare for the most vulnerable populations, such as women and children. The forum also supported the use of new technologies and eHealth solutions. These include a wide range of services including telephone helplines, remote patient monitoring, electronic health registers or online learning for staff.

The call to action also called upon governments, the WHO, the African Union Commission and the private sector to increase their investments and actions toward achieving the goal of UHC.

The WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti says that although most African governments strive for UHC already, many countries lack the funding and the skilled human resources. High out-of-pocket payments lead to the impoverishment of 11 million Africans annually.

Moeti expressed hope that the WHO Africa health forum “will help pave the way to attain UHC across the continent. We are convinced that together, we can do more to save lives and achieve a prosperous and sustainable future for all.”

Lena Riebl

Photo: Flickr