Africa needs to act now to safeguard the health of its youth

Partnerships and stronger collaboration are critical for better access to quality, affordable healthcare for everyone in Africa. This was a key message at the first Africa Health Forum launched by the World Health Organization in Africa and the Government of Rwanda in Kigali.

In his opening remarks, His Excellency Anastase Murekezi said: “Being healthy is the basis for all socioeconomic development, and without it nothing will work. For this reason, African countries must work together, sharing experiences, which will translate the 2063 vision of health and wellbeing into reality. I call upon our African countries to set up strategies to help them implement the resolutions from this Forum”.

He urged the vibrant private sector in Africa to invest more in the health sector and appealed to other stakeholders to support Africa’s efforts ensuring that it is aligned with priorities.

With a rising young population, the urgent need for concrete actions to address the health of youth and adolescents will be central to the discussions at the two day forum.

Africa is the only region in the world where the population as a whole is getting younger. People under the age of 18 make up 50% of the population in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. However, despite the vitality of youth, HIV has disproportionately affected African children and adolescents. During the 30 years of the global HIV epidemic, around 17 million children have lost one or both parents due to AIDS – 90% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition, the growth of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Africa has seen a rise in NCD-related deaths of 27% over the last 10 years. If this growth continues, there will be an obvious knock-on effect on the health of young people in Africa.

“Africa has the advantage – as the world is getting older, our population is getting younger. There is so much potential to harness this vitality and energy to create health systems that suit all. But we need to act now to safeguard their health by creating youth-friendly health services and encouraging healthy lifestyles,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa in her opening address.

“We want our youth to not just be beneficiaries of services, but to be with us at the decision-making table as we partner across sectors for a more prosperous, sustainable future for everyone in Africa,” she added.

Dr Moeti emphasized working with the private sector, African philanthropists and Africa’s youth to tackle these challenges to get concrete results in improving the health of African people.

‘Putting People First: The Road to Universal Health Coverage in Africa’ is the overall theme of the forum. While Africa still has critical health issues, there have been some major improvements over the past decade and the impact of these will also be discussed at the event.

Key successes in public health include:

· The region has made significant progress in malaria control. Malaria incidence and mortality rates declined by 42% and 66% respectively between 2000 and 2015;

· Domestic government contributions from the WHO African region provided US$ 528 million to fund malaria control in 2015;
· For the first time, we have a malaria vaccine offering partial protection of children, who are especially vulnerable;
· The Region is on the verge of eradicating polio;
· The number of adults and children newly infected with HIV in the Africa has declined by 19% in the last five years, from 1.63 million to 1.37 million;

· HIV treatment scale-up is continuing, with an estimated 12.1 million people (43%
of those eligible) receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) by the end of 2015;

· The MDG era contributed to many of these successes. By the end of 2015, maternal mortality in the Region fell by 45% from the year 2000, and newborn deaths dropped by 38% during the same period.

For more information, please visit africahealthforum.afro.who.int

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