ANN Drives Advocacy at the 72 nd WHO Regional Committee for Africa
At the 72nd WHO Regional Committee for Africa held in Lome, Togas from 22nd-26 August 2022, the Africa NCDs Network on behalf of its stakeholders and partners presented two statements on the need for African countries to adopt the PEN-PLUS Strategy- a regional strategy to address severe Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) at first-level referral health facilities as well as supporting the move by the region to adopt the and Framework on strengthening the implementation of the comprehensive Mental Health action plan 2013-2030 in the WHO African Region.
Developed jointly with key partners including the Global NCD Alliance, and Partners in Health (PIH), based on Agenda Item 7 and Agenda Item 8 of the meeting, the statements highlighted the critical need for collaborative efforts among African countries to achieve equitable distribution and access to healthcare services for the severe NCDs at Primary healthcare facilities.
The Statement on supporting the PEN-PLUS Strategy
Since its launch in 2008, the PEN-Plus strategy has indicated significant results in the countries it was piloted. The positive results in Liberia, Malawi, and Rwanda, indicate a wider opportunity to provide more people living with severe and chronic NCDs with decentralized care and integrated case management, at the Primary Health Care facilities through adopting the PEN-Plus strategy. ANN and its partners, therefore, call upon its member states to:
- Adopt the PEN-Plus strategy, its principles, and the proposed targets and indicators.
- Ensure service providers are well trained, received on-the-job specialist mentorship and are maintained in their relevant departments to support implementation.
- Increase the investments in the prevention and control of NCDs, including funding for the implementation of the PEN-Plus strategy.
- Looking at the PEN-PLUS interventions as investments that will support the achievement of multiple health and development goals.
- Ensure the meaningful involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including people living with NCDs in the design and implementation of PEN-Plus care and benefit packages and eliminate the risk of catastrophic health expenditure.
- Prioritize timely progress review and ensure the meaningful involvement of people living with NCDs in the proposed mid-term and end-term reviews of the strategy.
Statement on adopting the Framework on strengthening the implementation of comprehensive Mental Health action plan 2013-2030 in the WHO African Region
The statement highlighted the concern on the growing burden of mental illness, and neurological and substance use conditions in Africa. It also acknowledged the bigger gap that exists in access to treatment among 90% of people living with Mental Health illnesses. Though it applauded the development of Mental Health policies and strategic plans in 76% of Africa Member States and the existence of Mental Health legislation in 49% of countries, the statement also stressed that Mental Health governance and leadership at national and subnational levels in Africa is weak and implementation of policies and legislations remains suboptimal.
It, therefore, called upon African Governments to prioritize actions and ensure that all people in the African Region enjoy the best mental, neurological, social, and psychological health and well-being, in line with the vision of the new framework. To support the Framework, the statement called upon member states to:
- Adopt the framework and prioritize the proposed indicators, targets and milestones.
- Build the capacity of Health Workers for sufficient service delivery and ensure they are attached to the relevant departments and communities through the principles of proximity care.
- Put in place legislations aimed at fighting against Mental Health as a priority.
- Focus on a life course approach on prevention as one way of ensuring case reduction.
- Increase financing for Mental Health to ensure services are provided adequately
- Ensure there is multistakeholder involvement and partnerships
- Prioritize Meaningful involvement of those living with Mental Health illnesses including their caregivers.
- Putting in place Proper facilities that treat people with mental health with dignity
- Create inclusive comprehensive school mental health programs
- Generate real time national surveillance and monitoring tools for mental illnesses
Every year, the WHO Regional Offices convene their Regional Committee Meetings (RCM) to discuss and monitor progress of health-related commitments in Member States. 72nd WHO Regional Committee Meeting prioritized restructuring healthcare systems to ensure equitable distribution of healthcare. During the meetings, African health ministers initiated a campaign to raise awareness and resources for addressing sickle cell disease, one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in the region. With increased access to health facilities, the new strategy will likely reduce transportation and lodging costs, and African people in rural areas are likely to spend less time traveling to hospitals.
The WHO Regional Committee for Africa is the Organization’s decision-making body on health policy in the African Region. It comprises of Ministers of Health or their representatives from each of the 47 Member States in the Region. The main functions of the Regional Committee include formulating regional policies and supervising the regional office as set out in Article 50 of the WHO Constitution. The Committee also nominates the Regional Director for Africa every five years and transmits its decision to the WHO Executive Board for endorsement. The Regional Committee usually meets each year in August and the Regional Director acts as its Secretary.
Through its strategic directions, the Africa NCDs Network continues to strengthen its involvement and support toward high-level prioritization of the NCD agenda in the region, in close collaboration with regional CSO networks. The Network has also enhanced its support towards the rights and voices of people living with and at risk of NCDs in Africa, as well as the voices of their nation-states, in conjunction with the global NCD response agenda and relevant stakeholders.