Accra, May 14, GNA - Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Ghana’s Minister of Health, has cautioned African Health Ministers not to be complacent about the seemingly victory over the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
He said although the Africa region had been able to ride the tide with many stifling restrictions removed, it would be too presumptuous for it to claim victory over the dreadful COVID 19.
The continent must, therefore, continue to insist on complying with the existing protocols to avoid any sporadic flare ups.
Mr Agyeman-Manu, sounded the caution when he represented President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the 23rd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Assembly of Health Ministers in Accra.
He said the Region had a lot to be proud of in terms of how collectively the countries were able to manage the devastating impact of the COVID 19 pandemic against earlier skepticisms by the western nations.
He said skeptics were quick to argue that already fragile health systems, coupled with densely populated urban dwellings with limited opportunities for social distancing, poor baseline systems to support hygiene and sanitation, and limited financial muscle to acquire the needed medical supplies to combat the disease, were factors for a potential annihilation of entire populations on the continent.
“The vaccine politics that subsequently played out, is still fresh in our minds,” he said.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said, “despite the challenges, we must not allow the economic impact of COVID-19 to increase the social inequalities in health between and within our countries. We must use this opportunity to reform and improve our healthcare systems.”
Nonetheless, “with the onset of COVID 19, we literally took our eyes of the ball, neglecting some essential health services, such as reproductive, maternal and child healthcare, and even care of the elderly,” he noted.
The Health Minister said it was unfortunate that, that was coming at the same time when the burden of disease was changing in most ECOWAS countries, with the rapid increase in chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, mental health and obesity.
Mr Mahamudu Toure, the President of Industry and Private Sector, ECOWAS, said COVID-19 really disrupted health policies and programmes of countries, hence the Ministerial meeting offered a critical opportunity for knowledge sharing, learning, and to galvanise political support.
Those, he said, would facilitate the achievement of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and the Universal Health targets by 2030.
He said to ensure those, ECOWAS had added health to its topmost priorities, and would spearhead the sustenance of robust health systems through strengthened regional integration and solidarity, to prioritse issues of the poor and marginalised to ensure equal and quality service delivery across the sub-region.
The Health Ministers from the ECOWAS region - Ghana, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Nigeria and Liberia- later signed the Accra Declaration on Universal Health Coverage, to reaffirm their commitment towards achieving quality and equal access to healthcare for all persons by 2030.