Ethiopia: Africa marks turning point in saving children’s lives

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) – Using vaccines, one of the most powerful tools for saving children’s lives, has marked the start of a new era in Africa, the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Sidiki Mustapha Kaloko said here Wednesday at the opening of the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa.

“Africa’s unity on immunization is our best hope for a better future,”  Kaloko noted, calling on ministries of health across the continent to take the lead in advocating for scaling up of immunization programmes in their communities.

They are also using the opportunity to discuss strategies for tackling the biggest challenges facing vaccine effort on the continents; foster country ownership for sustainable financing for immunization; and advocate for greater engagement with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable demand for immunization.

Hosted by the World Health Organization Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in conjunction with the African Union Commission, the conference has provided a powerful platform for African policymakers and advocates to celebrate progress toward expanding immunization coverage.

For the first time ministers of health, finance and other sectors from across the continent have come together to declare their commitment to strengthening immunization services, and put universal access to immunization at the forefront of efforts to improve health and drive sustainable development.

These leaders are taking action now because they know that vaccines are a smart investment and that their countries can and must do more.

“Achieving universal immunization coverage is not only important for the health of children, but also because healthy children are more likely to attend school, get good jobs and become productive members of society,” Kaloko told the meeting.

In a video statement, the WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, stressed the importance to close the gap for immunization, reiterating that immunization saves lives and money.

“Africans must look beyond the financial aspects of immunization,” she said.

In the keynote address, former president of Tanzania, Mr Jakaya Kikwete called on African States to focus on promoting universal health access, beginning with a focus on universal immunization.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn has called on African governments to give immunization the highest level of attention.

He said that investing in immunization will protect the future of children in Africa, enabling them to grow up healthy and giving them the chance to become productive adults.

In her remarks, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said for the continent to achieve its full potential and secure a bright future, “we must unite to ensure that every child on the continent receives the vaccines he or she needs to survive. It is unacceptable that one in five African children lack access to lifesaving vaccines.”

Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, noted that since vaccines were made available there has been a tremendous change in the healthcare systems of Africa at large.

He lauded Somalia on its success in controlling disease outbreaks and Libya on introducing new vaccines and routine immunization in spite of their political situation. He also pointed out that Egypt and Tunisia have maintained routine immunization of 94% of the children while Sudan has increased their immunization coverage.

The two day conference will seek to secure the commitment of African Governments and their partners to reach and sustain the required immunization quality and coverage as stipulated in the generally accepted valuation principles and the Regional Strategic Plan for Immunization 2014-2020 so as to eradicate, eliminate and control vaccine preventable diseases in the overall context of health system strengthening in Africa.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 24Feb2016

24 february 2016 15:31:00

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