The Seventieth Session of the WHO African Regional Committee was successfully conducted virtually for the first time ever.
The session which was initially slated to be held physically in Lome, Togo was changed to a virtual meeting in line with the new normal way of doing business brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the session, Madam Lydia Mikolo, the Minister for Health of the Republic of Congo and the Chairperson of the RC69 acknowledged the challenges being faced by the Region in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and commended the commitment of African Presidents to the ongoing response.
She thanked all the Member States for giving the Republic of Congo the opportunity to chair RC69 and the WHO Regional Director for Africa and Secretariat for their support to her country’s health sector particularly in the fight against COVID-19.
In his remarks, Professor Mijiyawa Moustafa, the Minister for Health of Togo also acknowledged the support of WHO, other partners and donors to his country in its efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He reiterated the commitment and willingness of his country to host the next RC in Lome, Togo.
Madam Elwira Elfadil, the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs highlighted the support which was being provided to African Members States by his Commission such as provision of supplies, logistics, diagnostics, online capacity building and technical assistance.
While commending the partnerships which have been formed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the region, she called for unhindered access to the COVID-19 vaccines for Africans as soon as the vaccines are available.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa ,Dr Matshidiso Moeti welcomed and thanked all the delegates and said that the regional experiences in dealing with outbreaks such as Ebola virus disease (EVD) has come in handy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She highlighted the importance of strong health systems in emergency preparedness and response and called for heightened vigilance as countries re-open their economies following a prolonged period of lockdowns.
She said equity and access to the social determinants of health should be the foundation of the health work in Africa.
Furthermore, she called upon Member States to ensure continuation of essential health services in the era of COVID-19 and to use innovative technologies for the ongoing response.
She closed her remarks by reiterating the need for unimpeded access to COVID-19 vaccines in Africa.
In his remarks, the WHO Director General, Dr Tedros said the task of responding to the ongoing pandemic is the business of all.
He called on everybody to ensure that they regularly wash their hands, consistently wear face masks and adhere to the public health and social measures while calling on governments to scale up testing, contact tracing and treatment.
Furthermore, he highlighted the challenges facing the Democratic Republic of Congo in combating the EVD outbreak and called for additional human capacity to respond to the outbreak.
He expressed his commitment to continue to support all Members States to strengthen the foundations of their health systems, mitigate the effects of health emergencies, improve health information generation, management and use and to improve the human resources for health capacity through the new WHO Academy.
He said that while the COVID-19 has taken so much from us, it has also shown that health is the foundation of stability and development.
He closed by calling upon all the African Ministers of Health to ratify the establishment of the African Medicine Agency
The one-day virtual RC70 which took place on 25th August 2020 received the report of the work of WHO in the African Region from 2019 to 2020, deliberated on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Africa and celebrated the polio-free certification of the African Region.