The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, just concluded a week-long visit to Ethiopia to acknowledge the country’s efforts to sustain essential health services alongside the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, learn about the progress and challenges in the health response to the humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia, and reaffirm WHO’s commitment to support these efforts.
Dr Moeti met with H.E. President Sahle-Work Zewde and discussed collaboration on promoting universal health coverage. She applauded the government’s early proactive efforts against COVID-19, which helped keep the pandemic under control during much of last year. However, she stressed the need for a whole of government approach in the current upsurge, as well as a recommitment to key public health measures such as physical distancing, limiting mass gatherings and wearing masks.
During her visit, Dr Moeti also met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Demeke Mekonnen, Minister of Peace, Honourable Muferiat Kamil, and Minister of Health, Honourable Dr Lia Tadesse. Together with Dr Lia, she inaugurated an Emergency Medical Team Training Centre in Addis Ababa which will train both regional and national health experts to better prepare and respond to health emergencies in Africa.
“This training centre will contribute to improving the region’s response to health emergencies by providing much needed hands-on training to health experts and improving the surge capacity of countries,” said Dr Moeti. “It will facilitate cooperation between countries and encourage knowledge sharing.”
WHO will work with national and regional health authorities as well as partners to rebuild the health system
Dr Moeti travelled to Tigray with the United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) and Humanitarian Coordinator, Dr Catherine Sozi, and visited a camp for internally displaced persons where she witnessed first-hand the health and humanitarian needs, and explored with the Interim Administration the adequate response to the humanitarian situation. She met with Honourable Mulu Nega, President of the Transitional Government of Tigray, and members of the interim government leadership for whom she highlighted the risk of disease outbreaks among displaced persons. Dr Moeti appreciated the efforts being made to restore the health system and promised to advocate for more resources to support the humanitarian response.
“WHO will work with national and regional health authorities as well as partners to rebuild the health system in areas affected by the conflict to facilitate the resumption of disrupted health services and speed up the response to health emergencies,” Dr Moeti said. “We will also advocate with our global and regional partners for the resources to sustain these efforts.”
The Regional Director also travelled to Amhara Region and discussed the region’s health needs with Honourable Dr Fenta Mandefro, Vice-President of the Regional State and his regional administration team. She commended the regional health authorities’ efforts to improve people’s access to health, including the successful implementation of the community health insurance scheme. During her visit to the Amhara Public Health Institute, Dr Moeti commended the Institute’s leadership in the region’s response to COVID-19 and other health emergencies and committed to continuing WHO technical support to this first sub-national public health institute.
During her visit to Ethiopia, Dr Moeti met with Honourable Amira Elfadil Mohamed, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development at the African Union Commission, and discussed continental health challenges as well as WHO efforts and contribution in the establishment of the African Medical Agency and thanked her for the close collaboration on important regional issues.
Dr Moeti also met with the Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, to take stock of the partnership between their organizations and discuss current priority issues, including COVID-19 vaccine rollout and genomic sequencing of the SARS-Co V-2 virus to detect circulation of emerging variants.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa held virtual meetings with the newly appointed African Union Special Envoy for the African Medicines Agency, Honorable Michel Sidibé and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Dr Vera Songwe.
During the visit Dr Moeti was accompanied by WHO Regional Emergency Preparedness and Response Director, Dr Abdou-Salam Gueye, and the Director of the WHO AFRO Regional Director’s Office, Dr Felicitas Zawaira.