Mr. Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe the President of Togo officially opened the seventy-second session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa (RC-72) on Monday, 22 August 2022.
This is the most important meeting on public health in Africa bringing together 47 Ministers of Health in the WHO African Region with the aim of defining health priorities for the next 12 months.
This year’s session is organized in a hybrid format—physical and virtual—from 22 to 26 August 2022 under the special procedures governing the conduct of hybrid sessions of the session of the Regional Committee for Africa.
The official opening ceremony took place at the Lomé International Conference Center in the presence of several high-ranking personalities including the Director General of WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“All Member States should commit to vaccinating 100% of health workers and 100% of people over the age of 60, while continuing to target 70% of the entire population. This is the best way to save lives and foster a truly sustainable recovery,” said Dr. Tedros.
President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo congratulated Dr Tedros for his re-election and expressed his country’s pride in hosting the first physical meeting of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa after a two-year interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He reiterated that health is key to social cohesion and a top priority for his government.
The Regional Director of WHO in the African Region Dr Matshidiso Moeti, commended President Gnassingbé for leading a response that enabled Togo to transform the challenges posed by COVID-19 into opportunities for inclusive socio-economic innovation. Dr Moeti recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the central role of health in both development and national security and the imperative to prioritize investments in this critical sector.
Dr. Moeti expressed concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities but was optimistic that Africa can still control the pandemic. “We are committed to continuing our unwavering support to Member States in ensuring that COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the region catches up with that of the rest of the world,” said Dr. Moeti.
The Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Sustainable Development of the African Union Ms Minata Samaté Cessouma, said the AU and its institutions were committed to working with member states to build back better from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ambassador Cessouma said that the AU is prioritizing “a new public health order” built on 5 pillars namely: “the strengthening of health institutions, the strengthening of human resources for health, qualitatively and quantitatively, the development and manufacture of vaccines and partnerships. She noted that it was critically important to increase national resources for health financing.
“It is not acceptable that currently people on the African continent on average spend more than 30% of their income on health versus 10-20% as recommended by WHO,” she said.
Others in attendance were the Prime Minister of Togo, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Togolese Minister of Health as well as the Ministers of Health and Heads of Delegation of Member States, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of United Nations agencies and non-state actors.
Most speeches focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the health system, health financing and health emergencies as well as on partnerships.