Monday, November 26, 2007

(HERALD) President commends Sadc

President commends Sadc
From Peter Matambanadzo in VICTORIA FALLS

PRESIDENT Mugabe has commended Sadc for the commendable job the bloc is doing, particularly in the health sector, which has managed to foster greater integration and development in the region. Simultaneously opening the Sadc Health Ministers’ Meeting and the Special Ministerial Conference on HIV and Aids and officially launching the Sadc Malaria Week here, Cde Mugabe said the region had made great strides in the health sector.

"We acknowledge with appreciation the hard work by the Sadc Health Ministers over the past week. Let me, at this juncture, acknowledge and appreciate the good work that the health sector is doing to foster greater regional integration and development," Cde Mugabe said.

He, however, said there was need for the region to prioritise national and regional initiatives to sustain the fight against HIV and Aids.

"As a developing region which needs the support of the rest of the world to overcome the HIV and Aids challenge, we can still win the fight against the epidemic by prioritising it on our national and regional agendas," Cde Mugabe said.

"It is, therefore, imperative that we continue to mobilise our people and our own resources to ably sustain this fight."

The Sadc region, he said, remained the epicentre of the HIV and Aids epidemic with an average HIV prevalence rate of 11 percent in the region compared to 1 percent for the rest of the world.

"With the prevalence rate this high, we need to be in the forefront of the battle against HIV and Aids. I am glad we are leading in the battle," he said.

Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe had managed to significantly reduce the prevalence rate owing to innovative and sustainable programmes.

"Mr Chairman, Zimbabwe introduced an innovative and sustainable Aids Trust Fund in 2000 to fund the country’s HIV and Aids prevention, care and support programmes.

"This fund has enabled us to successfully implement and continue with our HIV and Aids interventions despite reduced international donor funding and inexplicable failure to get sustainable support from the Global Fund," he said.

The President said the denial of funding to Zimbabwe by the Global Fund was political.

"The failure is often explained in lame terms. But for Zimbabwe, who have been subjected to declared and undeclared sanctions for the past seven years, the reason for the Global Fund response is much easier to fathom. Unwillingly, the fund has fallen victim to the racist Western policies that have sought Zimbabwe’s destruction, certainly our punishment for the bold step we took to empower the majority of our people through the Land Reform Programme," he said.

Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe continued to face spirited opposition from those who were against the economic empowerment of the majority.

He called on Sadc to empower the masses and mobilise them to exploit natural resources around them, which were key in the development of the region.

"We cannot be content with the crumbs falling off the tables of our former colonial masters. Indeed, how can we hope to win the crucial war against poverty if we do not control our economies and own resources?" Cde Mugabe said.

Sadc health ministers should continue to spearhead the implementation of key resolutions made in the last few years to direct the region in addressing health challenges, he said.

On malaria, Cde Mugabe said this was the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality and a major impediment to socio-economic development in the region.

"About 300 000 to 400 000 malaria-related deaths and 20 million malaria episodes are reported each year in the region. In recognition of these grim statistics, Sadc member states adopted national malaria control programmes that implement evidence-based strategies, which include malaria control, case management epidemic preparedness and response advocacy and community mobilisations as well as monitoring and evaluation," he said.

The President said in 2001 African leaders took a bold decision in Abuja, Nigeria, to deal decisively with health problems, including Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

"We committed ourselves to providing 15 percent of national budgets to health. Zimbabwe remains committed to the Abuja targets. I am informed that in the last two days the health ministers approved a Sadc malaria elimination framework. This is a sign of commitment by our dedicated ministers, who are translating the decisions of the Heads of State and Government made in Abuja into concrete programmes that benefit the Sadc community," he said.

Increased regional co-operation was, therefore, crucial to attaining these targets.

"This will further cement our historical independence. Linked to this is the need for strengthening and expanding existing cross-border initiatives such as the Lubombo Spatial Development and the Trans-Zambezi Initiatives," he said.

Sadc ministers, he added, have since adopted the use of indoor residual spraying with DDT as a primary preventive strategy to address malaria in the region.

"So far, 11 countries in the region are using the IRS method for malaria control with satisfactory operational coverage," he said.

"Twelve Sadc countries have revised their anti-malaria drug policies towards Artemisinin Combination Therapy. This is in line with the Sadc ministers of health decision taken in Durban, South Africa, in April last year."

Cde Mugabe said the Malaria Week commemoration, being celebrated under the theme "Leadership and Partnership in Malaria Vector Control for Economic Development", comes at a time when the region had begun to intensify malaria control efforts.

The ministers chose Hwange as a priority district to launch the commemoration since it has a high burden of malaria.

World Health Organisation representative in Zimbabwe Dr Custodia Mandhate said President Mugabe’s presence was clear testimony of the Government’s commitment to making health the centre of development.

Dr Mandhate said malaria was a major public health concern in the region and a significant obstacle to development.

"Let us remind ourselves that malaria is the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality and responsible for up to 30 percent of outpatient attendances, 40 percent of inpatient attendances, 30 million cases and around 400 000 deaths per annum in our Sadc region. This is alarming," Dr Mandhate said.

He said globally about 60 percent of the cases of clinical malaria and over 80 percent of the deaths occurred in Africa south of the Sahara with the most affected being children under five years.

"In addition to the acute disease episodes and deaths in Africa, malaria also contributes significantly to anaemia in children and pregnant women, adverse birth outcomes, such as spontaneous abortion, premature delivery and low birth weight, and overall child mortality," he said.

Ambassador of Roll Back Malaria and renowned South African musician Yvonne Chaka-Chaka applauded Sadc for the strategic plans to fight malaria and other diseases.

The launch was followed by a music gala where Zimbabwean superstar Oliver Mtukudzi was scheduled to perform.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home