Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 24 February 2016 – African leaders, including ministers of health, finance, and other line ministries, have gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa – the first-ever ministerial-level convening with a singular focus on ensuring that people across the continent can get access to life-saving vaccines.
The conference – hosted by the World Health Organization Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in conjunction with the African Union Commission – will provide a powerful platform for African policymakers and advocates to celebrate progress toward expanding immunization coverage; discuss strategies for tackling the biggest challenges facing vaccine efforts; foster country ownership for sustainable financing for immunization; and advocate for greater engagement with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable demand for immunization.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Sidiki Mustapha Kaloko stated that 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. “This is the start of a new era of health on our continent, in which all countries commit to saving and improving children’s lives using one of the most powerful tools ever invented: vaccines. Africa’s unity on immunization is our best hope for a better future,” Dr. Kaloko noted. He further called on Ministries of Health across the continent to take the lead in advocating for scaling up of immunization programmes in their communities.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director- General of the WHO in her video statement stressed the importance to close the gap for immunization. Furthermore, reiterating that immunization saves lives and money. Africans must look beyond the financial aspects of immunization, she said.
In her remarks, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said for Africa 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” adding that “It is unacceptable that one in five African children lack access to lifesaving vaccines”.
Delivering the keynote address, former president of Tanzania Mr Jakaya Kikwete called on Africa States to focus on promoting universal health access, beginning with a focus on Universal Immunisation which he said is crucial to saving the lives of children across Africa and the world.
Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean in his speech noted that since vaccines were made available there has been a tremendous change in the healthcare systems of Africa at large. He further went ahead to applaud Somalia on its success in controlling disease outbreaks and Libya on introducing new vaccines and routine immunization in spite of their political situation. Egypt and Tunisia have also maintained routine immunization of 94% of the children. Sudan has also increased their immunization coverage.
In his welcome address, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn called on African Union Member States to give immunization the highest level of attention, adding 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.
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 GAVP 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.
The conference is expected to yield a Declaration, which will reiterate the commitment of all stakeholders to place health, especially the eradication, elimination and control of vaccine preventable diseases at the centre of their development processes; as well as allocate the required resources to reach and sustain the highest possible immunization coverage, including through empowerment of communities and inter sectoral actions. WB/ AB/BM/BH/wzm
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