Public Health Emergency Fund - The proposed African Public Health Emergency Fund (APHEF) is now ready to take off with the contribution of US$1.8 million by five countries – Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo.
Dr. Sambo announced the planned take-off of the Fund on Friday in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, during his annual briefing on the state of health in the African Region, attended by representatives of international organizations and members of the diplomatic community accredited to the country.
PANA reports that with the expected annual contribution put at US$50 million, the Regional Director appealed to countries to pay up their outstanding contribution for 2012.
The WHO Regional Committee for Africa, at its 60th session held in 2010 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, approved a proposal by the Regional Director to set up the APHEF, in recognition of the inadequate resources available to member states to respond to public health emergencies.
Also, at the 61st session held in 2011 in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, the Regional Committee unanimously adopted a resolution which requested Dr Sambo to accelerate the operationalization of the Fund.
The resolution also set the annual recommended contribution of member states to APHEF at a total of US$50 million and endorsed the designation of the African Development Bank as the trustee for the management of the Fund as well as the domiciliation of a revolving fund with a limit of US$30 million at the WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville.
APHEF is expected to mobilise, manage and disburse in a timely manner additional resources from member states for responding rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies of national and international concern including epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases, the health impact of natural and man-made disasters and humanitarian crises.
In his address to the envoys, Dr. Sambo also called on African governments and their health partners to intensify action in addressing three of the major health threats facing the Region: communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases and public health emergencies.
On communicable diseases, the Regional Director outlined the major communicable diseases facing the Region as malaria, tuberculosis (TB) HIV/AIDS, neglected tropical diseases, epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases and vaccine preventable diseases.
He said the Region records 80% of all global episodes of malaria, 90% of deaths, and a very high rate of malaria-related deaths among children and pregnant women.
However, Dr. Sambo explained that on-going efforts to address this problem have reduced malaria deaths by more than 50% in 13 countries. The percentage of homes using long lasting insecticide-treated nets has also increased from 3% in 2000 to 53% in 2012.
According to him, TB remains a major public health problem in the African region, with 500,000 deaths annually that account for over 26% of notified TB cases in the world.
While 19 countries had been able to treat over 85% of those affected, he said, the co-infection of TB and HIV as well as drug-resistant TB and Multi-drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) continued to complicate treatment of the disease.
The Regional Director highlighted progress made in the prevention, control and treatment of HIV/AIDS but said that 1.2 million deaths recorded in the Region in 2011 was a matter of concern.
He also noted that progress was made in tackling neglected tropical diseases, but that more needs to be done to control elephantiasis, river blindness, bilharzia, trachoma, soil transmitted infections such as hookworm, roundworm and whipworm among others.
On non-communicable diseases, the Regional Director pointed out that tobacco use, lack of exercise, unhealthy diets and harmful use of alcohol were responsible for the rising trend of heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, mental health problems, violence and trauma.
It is projected that by 2025, about 55% of deaths in the African Region will be caused by non-communicable diseases.
Dr.Sambo also drew attention to the impact of climate change, saying it was time for all to face the realities of its projected effects which include increasing the population at risk for malaria in the Africa Region to an estimated 170 million people between now and 2030.
Speaking on behalf of the diplomatic community, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Brazzaville, Mrs Marie Charlotte Fayanga, expressed confidence that more countries would make their contribution to the APHEF.
Mrs Fayanga, who is the Ambassador of the Central African Republic to Congo, also appealed to decision- and policy-makers in the health sector in the African Region to ensure that people in the rural areas also had access to impregnated bed nets and anti-retroviral therapy.