- Your Excellency and our distinguished host, Dr. Mutahi Kagwe, Cabinet Secretary for Health Republic of Kenya;
- Honourable Abdilleh Ahmed Robleh, Minister of Health, Republic of Djibouti;
- Dr. Lia Tedese, Minister of Health, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (Joining us Virtually);
- Dr. Fowzia Abikar, Minister of Health, Federal Republic of Somalia (Joining us virtually);
- Victoria Anib, Permanent Secretary, Republic of South Sudan;
- Amb. Magdi Ahmed Mofadal El-Nour, Representative of the Minister of Health, Republic of Sudan;
- Honourable Hanifa Kawooya Bangirana State Minister for Health, Republic of Uganda;
- Dr. Ayele Teshome GoncheState Minister of Health, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia;
- Dr. Abdinasir Mukhutar Ibrahim, Director-General, Federal Ministry of Health, Somalia;
- Saadia Salim, Kenyan Ambassador in Djibouti;
- Dr. Ahmed Ogwell, deputy director of Africa Centre for Disease Control;
- Dear IGAD Colleagues;
- Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by thanking you for making time to attend this, the 13th session of the IGAD Health Ministerial Meeting on regional health initiatives in our region.
As I was travelling here to join you in this meeting, I had time to reflect on the importance of health, not only from a personal perspective, but also from where we all sit as custodians of public policy.
And in my reflections, it occurred to me that healthy citizens are the greatest asset any of our countries can have. Indeed, when I cast my eyes around the world, it was evident that the wealthiest countries are also the healthiest countries.
I am therefore honoured and grateful to host you all in this meeting where we can deliberate on how to collectively grow the health capital of our states and people.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Our discussion comes at a time when we are coming to terms with a post-pandemic world. It also comes at a time when we are also grappling with the effects of many other “political and ecological diseases” in the shape of conflict and insecurity here in the horn of Africa as well as Europe, drought & flooding and also pest invasions.
Today we shall be laying a firm foundation for the future of health policy in our region by endorsing a number of Regional Policies and Strategies, as well as the program recommendations that were approved in the 2021 Health Steering Committee Meetings held here in Mombasa.
We know that when our people are on the move, diseases also move with them. This meeting is in recognition that our regional integration agenda also has implications on the health of our region and we need to put in place measures that respond to the concerns arising.
Excellencies Ladies and gentlemen;
As IGAD we have always maintained that “Borderlands are the theatre in which the future of our region will be decided”. But at the same time our borderlands have some of the lowest levels of health, economic and social infrastructure.
Our cross-border mobile population faces significant challenges in accessing to basic healthcare needs and this has a negative effect on the regional economy and undermines the health security for millions of our citizens in the region.
However, I am also encouraged by the spirit of brotherhood that our countries share and the informal health integration that is already in place.
In July of last year, I was privileged to visit the confluence of 3 of our Member States; Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia in Mandera where I saw that the communities in that region share the same healthcare facility in Mandera town.
However, I also noticed that they are facing a significant infrastructural challenge in getting across the border, because there is no bridge spanning the River Dawo.
I want to take this opportunity to once again appeal to the authorities to assist in facilitating the resolution of this challenge, and I put my IGAD heads of mission in all the countries at your disposal to conclude this matter for the benefit of our people.
The Covid-19 pandemic showed us how vulnerable we are not only health- wise but also politically and economically. In January of this year, I was very concerned by the pile up of trucks that stretched over 140 kilometers on the northern corridor between Kenya and Uganda, because we had to contain the spread of covid-19 through mandatory testing.
In protecting our people, we unfortunately had to hurt our economy. Similarly, we are yet to harmonize our pandemic policy in the region. Our mobile population still has to be tested for Covid-19 before they depart and when they arrive at their destination in the region.
While this level diligence is admirable in protecting us all from infection, it is also a vote of no confidence in each other’s health systems.
We need to demonstrate that we trust each other in health matters.
In this regard, I urge us all to come together and have common and regionally recognized health standards that will ease the movement of our people and remove non-tariff barriers to their economic growth and prosperity.
Excellencies Ladies and gentlemen;
As we now transition into a post-pandemic world, I want us to look
back and ask ourselves 2 fundamental questions;
1. Have we sufficiently capitalized on this crisis to seize the opportunity to strengthen our national and regional healthcare systems?
2. Are we ready for the next health challenge that will affect our region?
I am gratified to note that the expert discussions which preceded this meeting, and the declaration we are going to issue on cross border health initiatives in IGAD region will go a long way answering these questions and contribute to our shared objective to attain Universal Health Coverage.
As IGAD we shall continue to support our Member States to address the health needs of the under-served rural cross-border populations, refugees and host communities and commit to work closely with existing cross border health systems.
From a policy standpoint, we have a number of regulatory instruments already at our disposal to improve the health security of our most vulnerable populations and I will draw your attention to 4 of them;
- IGAD Regional Health Data Sharing and Protection Policy,
- IGAD Cross Border Health Policy (2021-2030)
- IGAD Regional Maternal Infant and Young Child NutritionAdvocacy Strategy
- IGAD Regional Knowledge Management Strategy for Health(2022-2026)
I call upon all our Member States to join hands in implementing and delivering on the noble intentions of these policy instruments so that we can unlock, catalyze and capitalize on the latent health assets that are already inherent in our populations.
Excellencies Ladies and gentlemen;
As I come to the conclusion of my remarks, allow me to express my sincere gratitude to all the experts from the ministries of health in all our Member States, our development partners at the European Union, UNHCR and Refugee Commissions for the continued technical and financial support the over the last 3 years which has been vital for the formulation, validation and endorsement of the policy documents that are going to be presented to this 13th ministerial meeting.
I also take this opportunity to sincerely thank our partners at the EU, AfDB, Sweden and Turkey for supporting the IGAD COVID-19 regional response strategy that complemented our Member State’s response to the pandemic.
Finally, I extend my sincere gratitude to Government of Germany through the GIZ, the Global Fund and the EU and the for the financial and technical support that made the High-Level Expert meeting and this Ministerial gathering possible.
Last but not least, ladies and gentlemen, join me in appreciating the Government of the Republic of Kenya, for accepting to host this meeting and also for all the support they have given us to collectively improve the health status of our people.
I thank you all for your attention.
Download the attached Speech in PDF below