African Ministerial Conference Concludes With Health Priority Commitment

Health and environment ministers from at least 46 African countries concluded the Second Inter-Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in Africa in Luanda, Angola on Friday, “with the adoption of the ‘Luanda Commitment,’ which lists the continent’s health and environment top priorities in the years ahead,” PANA/Afrique en ligne reports.

According to the article, commitment priorities include: the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services; the management of environmental and health risks related to climate change; management of vector control and chemicals; improvement of the health of women and children; and workplace health promotion.

The ministers “also committed themselves to accelerating the implementation of the Libreville Declaration, especially because of the effect this will have on the attainment of [Millennium Development Goals] 4, 5, 6 and 7 relating to child health, maternal health, communicable diseases and environmental sustainability respectively,” the news service notes. Ministers agreed to complete the Situation Analyses and Needs Assessment (SANA) and the preparation of national strategy plans by the end of 2012. So far, 17 countries have completed the SANA.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Abuja declaration, which called for African governments to allocate 15 percent of the national budgets to health (Adeyemi, 11/27).

One aim of the two-day conference, which was organized by the WHO and the U.N. Environment Program, was to assess countries’ progress on the implementation of a declaration from the First Inter-Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in Libreville, Gabon in 2008, PANA/Afrique en ligne writes. This conference also sought an agreement on “a common position for Africa on climate change and health for December’s climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico,” the news service writes (Adeyemi, 11/26).

At the conference opening, Luis Gomes Sambo, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, highlighted how ongoing floods and droughts on the continent are worsening malnutrition, according to another PANA/Afrique en ligne article. Gomes Sambo also noted an evaluation project, which examined the health an environmental sector funding needs for 17 African countries. It was conducted with support from several U.N. agencies, the governments of Spain and France. The examination could lead to the formulation of coordinated national plans, he said.   

Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, the vice president of Angola, said recent floods in some southern African countries illustrate how floods result in malnutrition. “The nutritional effects, the recurrent cycle of floods and drought go even farther and affect school performance of children,” he said. “According to him, many African countries were still unprepared to lessen the challenges of public health associated with climatic alterations for various reasons. Africa, he notes, has poor capacity to predict and face the natural phenomena, poor perception of the consequences of climatic alterations to the public health, inadequate articulation of the health and aid systems that are mostly fragile and incapable of responding to disasters and public health emergencies,” the news service writes (11/26).

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