Steps Towards Establishment of a COMESA Health Desk and Statutory Committee on Health

The establishment of a statutory Committee on health and a COMESA health desk are some of the new initiatives by COMESA Secretariat in collaboration with the African Union Center for Diseases Control (AU-CDC) to enhance intra-regional cooperation in the health sector.

Towards this end, the two organizations conducted the first meeting on Monday 20 June 2022 attended by senior officials from the health sector from the 21 COMESA Member States. The meeting reviewed the draft rules of procedure for the COMESA Technical Committee on Health and the report on the operationalization of the COMESA Health Desk. Its report will be presented to the First Meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Health on Wednesday 22 June 2022.

Assistant Secretary General for Programmes in COMESA, Amb. Kipyego Cheluget and the AU CDC Southern Africa Regional Coordinator Dr. Lul Riek addressed the delegates.

Amb. Cheluget cited the existence of international, continental and regional policies as providing the basis for implementing programmes on health in the region. These include the COMESA Treaty, the COMESA Social Charter, the COMESA Health Framework and Gender Policy, the Maputo Protocol, Agenda 2063, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent Health 2016-2030.

“The policies emphasize the need to strengthen cooperation of Member States in addressing the prevailing medical and social challenges as well as enhancing preparedness to respond to any epidemics to ensure the well-being of all citizens,” he said.

The COMESA health framework calls on Member States to ensure access to health services by all, to establish capacity for health research and development and to invest in production of medicines and medical supplies, among others.

Dr. Riek said his organization would like to work with COMESA in setting up the regional knowledge management hub.

“One of strategies is to identify health products made in Africa, prequalify them, add them onto the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), and encourage AU Member States to purchase Africa made medical commodities instead of buying commodities not made in Africa,” he said.

The chair of the meeting Mr. Mohamed Abdallah, who is Head of the Commercial Office at the Embassy of Egypt in Zambia, stressed the importance of experience-sharing. He noted that some Member States have a relatively advanced health industry and could help advance intra-regional cooperation so that pharmaceutical products, medical equipment and other health related commodities and services could be accessible by the population at a lesser cost.

He cited limited health financing as a major challenge facing the region and called for the participation of Private Sector to bridge the gaps in health service delivery.