Virus reminds us good health has to remain a global priority

Sunday March 15 2020

Sanitizer

A driver applies a sanitizer to the passenger's hands as she boards his bus, as one of the measure taken by the government of Rwanda in order to fight and avoid the COVID_19 which is now confirmed in Rwanda since March 14,2020. Photo | Cyril NDEGEYA  

RICHARD SEZIBERA
By RICHARD SEZIBERA
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Statistics indicate Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is set to double by 2050 and already 60 per cent of the population is below the age of 25.

This is a huge opportunity for our continent but it can also be a ticking bomb if we don’t invest and harness the power of this demography.

What better ways are there than to start investing in them from an early age.

Primary healthcare should remain our biggest priority. If the right investments are put in place, a healthy child will grow up to contribute to economic growth.

Vaccines are the first step to ensure the health of any human being. Despite tremendous gains over the last 20 years, one in ten children still miss out on life-saving vaccines.

The World Health Organisation also estimates that illness and deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases cost Sub-Saharan Africa $13 billion each year with immunisation coverage stagnating at 72 per cent, exposing populations to vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.

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There is an urgent need to reiterate the importance of increasing immunisation efforts and boosting domestic financing and implementation.

Every child deserves to have equal opportunities and protection against killer diseases like pneumonia, measles and polio. This only takes one simple tool—immunisation.

The continent will continue to work towards the goals we set for ourselves in Abuja in 2001 and increase funding for health to 15 per cent of our total budget.

Although the continent will continue to double its efforts, we have to recognise that we need the support of our friends and partners.

We need all hands on deck to ensure the future of the next generation.

As a former Gavi board member, I have seen first-hand how the organisation has played a tremendous role in saving the lives of millions of children.

The Vaccine Alliance is a global health partnership of public and private sector organisations dedicated to “immunisation for all”.

Since its creation in the year 2000, more than 13 million lives have been saved globally and for every dollar spent on immunisation, $54 are gained in economic benefits as vaccines boost development both through direct medical savings and indirect economic benefits of people living longer and healthier lives.

If this doesn’t convince us, I don’t know what will.

As they mark their 20-year anniversary, Gavi will also host its third replenishment conference on June 3 to 4, 2020 in London, UK.

The conference will seek to mobilise at least $7.4 billion to protect the next generation with vaccines, reduce disease inequality and foster a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world.
Recent replenishments have shown that when there’s global solidarity, everything can be achieved.

We are living in very challenging times around the globe but the latest coronavirus outbreaks in China have reminded us that health has to remain a global priority as it affects all of us.
We cannot afford to miss this important rendezvous with history.

Dr Richard Sezibera is Rwanda’s former minister of Health and Foreign Affairs

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