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1st Africa Health ExCon in Egypt major stride towards SDG3 on Good Health
The 1st Africa Health ExCon – which opened in Egypt on June 5 under the auspices of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi – marks a major stride towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) on Good Health and Wellbeing.
The three-day event is aimed at positioning Africa as the continental hub for health innovation and trade, therefore its inauguration witnessed the participation of more than 400 members of the Health Chamber and a number of national and international companies operating in the various health services domain.
Being held under the rubric “Your Gate to Innovation and Trade”, Africa Health Excon constitutes a pivotal hub for trade and investment in Africa, in addition to being the biggest sustainable platform in the health domain, enabling participants to exchange views, expertise and work out solutions for health problems facing the health sector across Africa.
During the inauguration of the 1st Africa Health ExCon, President of the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement, Medical Supply and Technology Management (AUPP) Major General Baha el-Dine Zaidan highlighted the importance of the event which represents a platform for African countries to exchange expertise and coordinate with global companies to find solutions for the continent’s health problems.
He said the ExCon is the first practical step to achieve integration and review African states’ potentials in order to promote inter-trade, noting that President Sisi directed to hold the conference annually in line with the Egypt Vision 2030 which backs the development of the African Union.
During the opening of the event, a documentary film – entitled “Future of Health in Africa” – was screened to shed light on the major challenges besetting the continent, especially in the health domain, as well as Egypt’s efforts to support Africa.
According to the documentary film, despite tangible economic growth that some African countries have achieved, they are still facing obstacles hindering the aspired healthcare services.
The film said bloating population in Africa is a key challenge facing the continent amid expectations that Africa’s population will double by the year 2050.
During Africa Health ExCon, Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and acting Minister of Health Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said the African continent is facing many challenges that affect health services offered to citizens across the continent.
Abdel Ghaffar added that these challenges include overpopulation, poverty, education, conflicts, and political instability as in some African countries.
ExCon panel on “Toward flexible and sustainable health systems in Africa”:
During the ExCon’s first day, President Sisi attended a panel under the theme of “Toward Flexible and Sustainable Health Systems in Africa,” which focused on health and pharmaceutical industry in Africa and the need to reach cooperation and integration for the best interests of the African nations and peoples.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga said Africa needs support to build its health sector, especially with regard to training experts.
He underlined the importance of benefiting from Egypt’s experience and how it managed to deal with waterborne diseases.
He said Zimbabwe seeks to have commercial partnerships with Egypt in pharmaceutical domains in order to confront the challenges besetting Africa.
He said Africa should realize self-sufficiency in various sectors, adding that “if we managed to manufacture medicine and drugs in Africa, this would be a great achievement.”
Egypt’s health efforts feted internationally:
During this panel, Harvey James Alter – an American Nobel Prize laureate who is best known for his work that led to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus – applauded Egypt’s “great achievement” in combating hepatitis C virus.
He said comprehensive work – starting from the political leadership, the health mechanism in Egypt and medicine factories – was behind this outstanding accomplishment.
He added that despite the outstanding American financial potentials, it did not launch a campaign against hepatitis C virus. Therefore, he called for transferring Egypt’s experience in the domain to other countries.
Meanwhile, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom, lauded the Egyptian leadership for its interaction with the international drive for eliminating hepatitis C virus.
He added – in a speech at the conference – that more than 1,100,000 people suffered from hepatitis virus, noting that great efforts were exerted to curb hepatitis B and C in Africa.
He said there are several strategies for combating hepatitis B and C, adding that “we have tools to reach the aspired goal of eliminating this disease by 90 percent.”
He said that the organization is looking forward to reaching the same level achieved by Egypt in combating hepatitis C.
Meanwhile, Mariangela Simao, WHO Assistant Director-General for Drug Access, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals, praised Egypt’s pioneering efforts in manufacturing vaccines and drugs.
Together with five other African countries, Egypt can transfer vaccine industry technologies to other countries, she added.
For his part, Egypt’s Presidential Adviser for Health Affairs Mohamed Awad Tag-Eddin voiced deep appreciation to President Sisi for the “unprecedented” achievements which Egypt witnessed over the past period in the healthcare domain.
He noted that what happened in Egypt after the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian crisis has proven that Egypt has been adopting a righteous thought and steel political resolve.
Tag-Eddin said Egypt is free from malaria, noting that the average of tuberculosis cases in Egypt is 11 in every 100,000 people.
He noted that Egypt highly appreciated the strategic directives of President Sisi, especially the establishment of a medical city to localize modern medical industry.
He stressed confidence that President Sisi will work on saving Africa which suffers from diseases and famine.
Sisi launches initiative to offer 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to African countries:
President Sisi announced during the session the launch of an Egyptian initiative to offer 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to African countries in coordination with the African Union, adding that Egypt’s potentials are available for the brotherly nations.
Egypt, just like all African countries, has limited resources and potentials but is ready to cooperate with the African states in all fields, the president said.
President Sisi asserted that the lack of resources in Africa is no obstacle to achieving goals or addressing besetting challenges as long as there is relentless will and resolve.
He noted that Egypt has launched several health initiatives, including the ‘100 Million Health’ initiative and its sub-goal of the early detection of Hepatitis C virus, which was until recently one the country’s biggest public health threats.
The 100 Million Health Initiative was launched in 2018 to screen and eliminate hepatitis and non-communicable diseases. In July 2020, the country announced it was free of Hepatitis C.
The president stated that he directed the acting health minister to reduce the waiting time for patients awaiting state-funded surgeries and critical medical interventions, noting that the country has performed around 1.3 million surgeries at an average cost of EGP 100,000-400,000.
President Sisi explained that the State targets finalizing the Universal Health Insurance System in 10 years instead of 15 years to offer excellent medical services to citizens.
The six-phase healthcare scheme, launched experimentally in 2018 in five governorates, is set to be completed nationwide by 2027, with the second phase kicking off between 2021 and 2023.
Egypt is taking great steps to achieve SDG 3 both at the national and African level as it has always played pioneering role in Africa.