VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE, Jan 16 — Health ministers from member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and private sector representatives are both waking up to the value of co-ordinating their responses at a first ever meeting of its kind taking place here this week.
Southern Africa has set a 2030 deadline to tackle its health triple threat of malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). With funding shortages and setbacks, it is running out of time and that is the reason this year’s SADC Health Minister’s Conference is departing from the norm to formalise the partnership with the private sector.
“The businesses and the private sectors in our own countries are what we should be relying upon, rather than donors from outside the region,” said Zimbabwe Health Minister David Parirenyatwa at the conference.
Absenteeism from work as a result of health problems costs Southern Africa up to 16 billion Rand (about 1.38 billion US dollars) in lost productivity a year, says the Chief Financial Officer of Discovery Health, Brett Tromp, who adds that businesses will benefit from a healthier society.
Half the people living with HIV are in Eastern and Southern Africa where 64 per cent of the people are living with AIDS and are on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment. “Seventy four per cent of pregnant women are on ARVs, we have reduced (HIV) transmission (from mothers) to babies by 33 per cent; in South Africa it is at 2.0 per cent, “says UN AIDS agency Regional Director in East and Southern Africa Sheila Tlou.
After making headway, South Africa has suffered a setback across its Mozambique and Swaziland borders. “We had eliminated malaria by 8,0 per cent, but there was a problem from the Mozambique side, and we are seeing an upsurge from (across) the borders,” South African Health Minster Aaron Motsoaledi told the conference.
The International Organization on Migration (IOM) says high regional inter-country travel needs to be taken into account. “It is a key aspect. We need to reach migrant populations, like miners in order to improve the cross border initiative,” IOM Health Manager Eric Ventura said.
At the end of the conference Friday, the health ministers are expected to adopt a resolution to set up a formal working group with the private sector. It also wants to introduce health reporting in corporate financial reporting.