EAC expedites cross-border health programmes

ARUSHA: THE East Africa Community (EAC) Sectoral Council of Ministers for Health recently approved the six-year CrossBorder Health Advocacy and Communication Strategy 2024-2030.

The purpose of this strategy is to facilitate domestication and implementation of health directives, policies and programmes by improving communication between the EAC Secretariat and partner states.

It is expected to enhance advocacy and communication efforts, increase visibility, and garner commitment from policy and decision makers in the partner states to implement cross-border health programmes.

The approval of the strategy took place during the 24th Ordinary meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers for Health held in Dar es Salaam from April 28th to May 3rd, this year.

The meeting was attended by ministers from various countries in the region, including Ms Ummy Mwalimu from Tanzania, Dr Lydwine Baradahana from Burundi, Dr Yvan Butera from Rwanda, and Ms Hanifa Bangirana from Uganda.

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Others were, Mr Magodde Ikuya, Minister of State for EAC Affairs from Uganda, and the Principal Secretary of the Ministry for Health from Kenya, representing the Cabinet Secretary for Health of Kenya, Ms Mary Muriuki.

According to a statement from the EAC Secretariat, the strategy aims to strengthen partnerships at national, regional and global levels, with the goal of improving accountability and transparency among stakeholders.

The partner states’ ministers for Health, during the ministerial session, emphasised the importance of using the regional strategy to increase awareness and support the implementation of decisions and directives from the sectoral council.

The sectoral council also directed the EAC Secretariat to collaborate with partner states in focusing on the execution of directives through enhanced awareness, information sharing, knowledge dissemination and increased access to health services for target populations.

During the meeting, progress reports on the implementation of previous sectoral council decisions were considered, and guidance and directives were provided.

The EAC Secretariat informed the sectoral council about the development of the sixth EAC Regional Health Scorecard in digital form, which serves as a tool for communicating and monitoring progress in implementing health programmes.

The ministers approved the digital version of the 6th EAC Regional Health Scorecard and directed the Secretariat to mobilise resources to support the digitalisation of National Health Scorecards in partner states and enhance data governance.

Regarding the EAC NonCommunicable Diseases (NCD) Strategic Framework 2024-2030, the EAC Secretariat informed the sectoral council that the framework was developed by the partner states and the secretariat in line with previous directives.

The goal of this framework is to reduce premature mortality caused by NCDs in the region by 20 per cent by 2030. The sectoral council also directed the secretariat and partner states to mobilise resources for disseminating the EAC Regional Strategic Framework for Prevention and Control of NCDs 2024- 2030 and to monitor its implementation.

The sectoral council was informed about the establishment of a One Health Coordination Office within the EAC Secretariat. This office aims to strengthen collaboration between various sectors, including human health, animal health or agriculture, wildlife and environment, within the secretariat and with the EAC partner states, and it was resolved that the secretariat should mobilise resources and recruit a Senior One Health Expert to coordinate the One Health Unit.

Furthermore, the sectoral council was informed about Tanzania’s official request to establish the EAC Regional Centre of Excellence in Transplant and Haematological Sciences at the Benjamin Mkapa Hospital in Dodoma.

The proposed centre aims to reduce morbidity and mortality from haematological complications and improve the health outcomes of EAC populations, thereby enhancing socioeconomic well-being.

The Council directed the EAC Secretariat, in collaboration with Partner States, to conduct national consultations and convene an Extra-Ordinary meeting of the Sectoral Council to consider the report of national consultations by June 15 of the same year.

During the opening of the ministerial session, the Chairperson of the Sectoral Council on Health, Ambassador Johnson Okot of South Sudan, emphasised the challenges faced by the region, including disease outbreaks and the consequences of global climate change.

He called for collective efforts to develop strategies and mobilise resources for the health sector.

Mr Andrea Malueth, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Infrastructure, Productive, Social, and Political Sectors, highlighted key achievements, such as the development of the EAC Health Sector Strategic Plan 2024-2030, strengthening surveillance and detection of health threats, and mobilising additional resources to sustain flagship programmes.

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