Health Minister Sabin Nsanzimana has said that East Africa needs to access and embrace emerging technologies and innovations to prepare and respond to diseases and emerging pandemics.
He said this, on September 27, during the 9th East African Health and Scientific Conference (EAHSC) bringing together researchers across the region to present and discuss their work, as well as exchange information between health practitioners.
Themed “Challenges and Strategies to preparedness and Response to Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases: Lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic’’, the summit seeks to discuss innovative approaches and interventions to strengthen health systems, leadership and governance for management of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
It also includes the success, opportunities, and challenges in the management of Covid-19 and Ebola, addressing social, economic, and political impacts caused by Covid-19 pandemic, and harnessing digital technologies for preparedness and response to communicable and non-communicable diseases.
It will also discuss the manufacturing and regulation of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other health technologies in the context of epidemics and pandemics, as well as traditional and herbal medicines use, and practices and beliefs during Covid-19 pandemic.
Nsanzimana said that they will review the implementation of recommendations from the previous conferences, address gaps and build on what has already been achieved.
He mentioned that technologies like artificial intelligence can be applied in different domains including diagnosis, vaccination, surgery, and treatment to boost the healthcare ecosystem.
“There are new opportunities that arise, despite the continued increase of diseases, we see improved capacity to diagnose and treat them while ultimately having a quick turnaround,” he said.
Nsanzimana emphasized that the region should leverage such emerging technologies and innovations to uplift the gap of limited resources and build health institutions that are faster and efficient.
Africa is rising against global inequalities when it comes to pharmaceuticals and having a voice in global healthcare decision-making, as well as responding to emergencies.
Rwanda is championing this initiative with partnership to build a BioNTech vaccine manufacturing plant, hosting the African Medicine Agency, and African Pharmaceutical Foundation, to build a whole healthcare ecosystem on the continent.
Dr. Novat Twungubumwe, Deputy Executive Secretary, East African Health Research Commission, said the region is threatened both by communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with the latest accounting for 40 percent of all deaths.
“We witness how a number of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS are causing a heavy burden to people’s life and to our economies. In addition to other preventable outbreaks including cholera, measles, rift valley fever (RVF), and yellow fever.”
On the other hand, he mentioned that prevalent NCDs in the region include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, mental illness and diabetes, and other non-communicable conditions like sickle cell disease, injuries and disabilities.
The health officials took note of lessons learnt from the pandemic and called for partnership in developing harmonized strategies for prevention, management and control of disease outbreaks and epidemics.