17th Nov, 2022: – The State Minister for Health – Genjeral Duties Hon. Anifa Kawooya has advised African states to have a national pandemic response fund, if they are to effectively respond to any potential disease outbreak before it escalates.
Hanifa Kawooya said this while sharing Uganda’s experience in the COVID-19 response during her key note address at the First African International Conference For Health Harm Reduction in Morocco.
“Heavy reliance on donor funding during a response to an outbreak, makes it clear that we need to review our health system financing mechanisms, to reduce donor dependency. There is a need for countries to put aside a national pandemic response fund, to be able to respond quickly to potential outbreaks before they escalate,” she strongly advised.
In her address, the Honourable Minister affirmed the commitment of Uganda to reducing health risk with reliance on the accumulated experience in management of other disease outbreaks like Ebola Virus Disease.
“Uganda’s history of managing recurrent outbreaks of highly infectious diseases has created an institutional memory and outbreak response mechanisms, which made it easy for Uganda to rapidly and effectively activate the country to COVID-19 response through existing systems and structures”, She said.
She noted that Uganda was able to take social determinants of health approach to its response by catering for vulnerable populations like refugees and people with low social and economic statuses.
Concerning the regional health safety, she highlighted that Uganda cooperated with its neighbours in implementing pandemic control measures at points of entry.
One of the strategies employed was the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS), a mobile phone app that allows cargo drivers to cross borders with COVID-19 digital certificates. This app allows sharing of COVID-19 test results of drivers between EAC states, reducing the need for testing in multiple countries.
She noted that thr challenges Uganda faced in the COVID-19 response were immense but these have acted as building blocks for a better health system.
“Because of pandemic pressures created by the shortage of pandemic response medical countermeasures for example, Uganda stimulated national innovation and manufacturing capacities for pandemic Medical countermeasures (MCMs) such as PPEs and pharmaceuticals like COVIDEX,” she noted.
Other key lessons she noted are the need for global solidarity in sharing trade-related intellectual property rights to scale up the production of life-saving technologies, specifically vaccines, for populations where the need was great, especially in low-income countries; and the need for stockpiling mechanisms and systems for pandemic response, for future responses to disease outbreaks to combat shortages during the response.
The conference was organised by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Kingdom of Morocco, in partnership with the addictive medicine and Associated Pathologies Society and was attended by Ministers, Ambassadors and key actors from the African and international political world, as well as eminent academicians, experts in health policies and international organisations and institutions.
It was aimed at building on the African experience and expertise in the perspective of the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, and to highlight the importance and practical means of improving health determinants and preventing major health risks in order to concretely lay the foundations for a viable and sustainable continental health sovereignty based on common future vision.
The discussions in this three-days conference are focused on the African and Global health system challenges and perspectives, the levers of financial sustainability of those systems, the solutions for reducing health risks, as well as the role of future medicine and technological innovations in Africa.