In 2013 Africa’s economy, was the world’s fastest growing continent at 5.6% per year, Sub-Saharan Africa countries posting 6% higher growth rates and expected to reach a GDP of $29 trillion by 2050 if the current trends continue.
But the continent has encountered many challenges that have hindered economic activities.
Health deficiencies are one aspect that has been a thorn in the flesh for the African economies. While some cases may need a medical solution, we need to promote a healthy life style in our communities if the potential of Africa is to be realised.
Drug-resistant infections caused by bacteria with increasing Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) threaten Africa’s ability to treat life-threatening conditions. Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat on a global scale with at least 700 000 dying each year of drug resistance in illnesses such as bacterial infections, malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.
The British government through the UK Department of Health Fleming Fund recently unveiled funds to combat AMR across the region.
Speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural regional Conference on Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance in South Africa, British High Commissioner Judith McGregor highlighted the need to support Africa’s efforts as part of their investments in the continent. Its quite a big investment 0f 265 million pounds through the Global Fleming Fund to assist South East Asia and Africa for better surveillance and best response to AMR.
“Funding shall be made available to 36 countries, in setting up laboratories, assist in data collection in government and various industries through research and development,” Macgregor indicated.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with South Africa to kick start a huge co-operation from the region in this regard.
“South Africa has better health based schemes as compared to other African nations that lack capacity to have laboratories. It’s affecting all countries, it’s about how we can stop the next person from get ill. We have started in the whole of SADCC and will also launch in east and West Africa soon,” she added.
MacGregor divulged that there is need for all stakeholders to put heads together in media, pharmacists and captains of industries to alert people on their lifestyles that are a cause to this issue.
“International organisations have drawn up the plan but it all comes down to political will from all of us” she added. A lot of high level activities are taking place at the United Nations, G20 Summit and National Action Plan are drawn up in accordance with the WHO resolution EB134/37 by World Health Assembly in 2014.
“Health is critical, if people are ill they cannot work and develop their communities, so an ideal world should tackle all that. We need to come on board and stand shoulder to shoulder with Africa,” Macgregor said.
She also indicated that BREXIT situation is not going to change the values of the UK government to international co-operation, however technically they will withdraw from some of the projects.
South African Director General for Health, Precious Matsoso, reckoned the significance of the development just two months after the UN adopted a declaration on combating AMR.
“We are one of the few regions that soon after the declaration, here we are concretely discussing the issues. We start with surveillance in collecting data for which category and types, that will help us make informed decision, where to put money and how to react as professionals” she said.
“Before WHO came up with the Global Plan of Action we were already ahead, I have been worried about it for a very long time. We learnt during Ebola, Ghana did not have any Ebola outbreak because they had an aggressive hand washing hygiene campaign with people carrying sanitary towels in their bags. We need to work with communities at preventative level before treatment,” she suggested.
Immunisation of children can also help prevent some of the diseases while certain lifestyles are tantamount to the outbreaks.
“It’s a combination of a lifestyle and access, people have to change a way of life but without proper sanitation it will not help. I came back from Colombia, we found out that Zika virus’ vector are mosquitoes. They transmit through environment related weaknesses, so unless we deal with the environment, we cannot address the issue,” she said.
With 73 countries now affected by Zika virus, there is a strong need for research in order to better understand how best a case can be managed in various illnesses.
“We have to start with our institutes of learning, children, they are good teachers, they will help to reinforce our messages. We have to work collaboratively.
Ebola caused a tragedy, with no flights, this meant stopped food supplies, a reduced economic activity meant the GDP went down, now this was because it affected a multiple of sectors with in the economy,”Matsoso added.
“We have not made much progress with regards to health for all but we have pockets of excellence in Africa, Rwanda has reduced mortality rate, countries did well in different areas”
“South Africa’s mortality rate is still high but we have managed to reduce significantly the mother to child infection rate and we have managed to put a lot of people on drugs in a short space of time. As Africa, we need to share our lessons learned in those areas.” Matsoso concluded.
Another major concern across the continent has been distribution chains and quality of supplies purporting an African collective response. A Regional Drug Awareness is penciled for South Africa in December on how we regulate sale of drugs.