On Let's Talk about Health in Africa Lenias Hwenda takes an in-depth look at the state of public health in African countries through one-on-one conversations and roundtable discussions with leaders and change makers from various sectors of the economy that impacts the health of Africans. Leaders, change makers and ordinary people share their insights, analysis and perspectives to help you make sense of the issues affecting the governance of health in Africa, how they are being tackled, whether this is working and what is needed to close the gap between the status quo and meaningful transformation of the lives of Africans.
Geneva, Switzerland. Lenias is passionate about improving access to quality affordable treatments.
An estimated 18 million people die each year from treatable and preventable disease mainly because they lack access to medicines. Huge efforts to reduce rates of infection and death from infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria have brought significant gains and improvements though more still needs to be done. However, African countries face additional challenges that urgently require effective solutions that are sustainable. Chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are expected to become the leading cause of disability by 2030 and will contribute significantly to lost productivity and higher healthcare costs for Africans.
Better availability of quality affordable treatments for these problems will be part of the solutions needed to prevent and treat these illnesses. Whilst many countries around the world are confronting the challenge of the rising cost of medicines, in the African context, the problem is exacerbated by weak infrastructure, which prevents the good results that are possible. Countries are not using their purchasing power and the African medicines market is dominated by suppliers who dictate the terms and influence the greater use of more expensive treatments that are not cost-effective. This is part of the reason why African countries are paying some of the highest prices for medicines outside of the areas supported by donors. Medicines for Africa is working to correct the anomaly that within areas not supported by donors, most medicines used within African countries are bought by governments themselves, quite inefficiently and at very high cost.
We believe that the challenges contributing to the excessive cost of medicines in African countries are not insurmountable and can be solved if we commit ourselves to doing so. To address them, African countries require resources that are far beyond what is available to them. Making making better use of the resources that are available to countries will go a long way towards bringing the change that is possible. Medicines for Africa's vision is to work with countries to achieve this by making sure that available resources are used more efficiently and countries avoid paying excessively in some areas to the detriment of others. We believe that African countries could make system wide improvements that strengthens their ability to provide treatments for the health needs of entire national populations.
It is a huge challenge that no single country has the capacity to tackle alone. However, countries can work together to achieve it. They can make significant improvements over time with very modest investments. Ensuring the health of African populations health is one of the most pressing challenges facing African nations. Failure to make the necessary changes and investments will undermine the productivity of individual citizens which in turn will retard the economic growth of countries throughout the region. All of us Africans should be concerned about how we are going to meet the growing health needs of our people in a way that is sustainable. Medicines for Africa has a sustainable solution that improves infrastructure for delivering treatments needs of entire national populations.
A cardinal point for Medicines for Africa that we keep in mind at all times, the north star that keeps us on course in our search for adequate solutions is that breakthrough will not likely result from individual effort. Navigating the healthcare landscape towards improving the strength of health systems to make them more resilient and responsive to the needs of entire populations is a complex task. It will require a collective effort, and all the best minds available. Medicines for Africa has benefited enormously from the collective effort of many professionals and experts from across the globe who have contributed their knowhow and experience in various ways in support of the vision of Medicines for Africa. This has propelled us to come so far, with so little. The biggest lesson from all of this is that people are our best resource.
This has remained true even as differences on the best path towards our destination have risen. Constructive debate serves a very important purpose in any organisation. It can lead to stronger, more confident teams with a better focus on the implementation of the organisation's vision. This unwavering focus on our vision has been our basic guiding principle. It keeps us on course as we continue to explore and iterate to find the the best approach. We owe it to ourselves and to the future of our children to stay the course and give our very best in searching for credible sustainable answers to the biggest problems facing our nations during our time. Our people's health is our nations' wealth.
Session on Leveraging donor procurement and commodity donations for market development. L- R. Lenias Hwenda- Chairperson, Mariatou (Tala) Jallow Head of sourcing and procurement of health products - The Global Fund, Edwin de Voodg- Managing Director IDA; Jantine Jacobi - UNAIDS Representative and Country Director for Kenya; Atieno Ojoo - UNICEF Supply Division President of Leadership Development Programme; René Berger USAID Kenya.
Nairobi, Kenya (2016) Lenias is passionate about improving access to quality affordable treatments.
Reflecting back on some of our discussions in Nairobi at the Africa Pharmaceutical Summit in 2016, Dr Muraguri, the Kenyan Principal Secretary of Health in the Ministry of Health highlighted medicines as the biggest driver of healthcare costs in Kenya. Unless Kenya addressed the spiraling cost of accessing medicines by its population, achieving affordable healthcare would be impossible. I have heard different versions of this statement from many African Ministry of Health officials.
We had all gathered to swap ideas on how to mitigate against the high prices of medicines and the poor sustainability of many solutions today. The CEO of Kemsa, Dr John Munyu, outlined a host of challenges facing medicines procurement across the continent, not just in Kenya. They included lack of data, lack of professional experts and weak infrastructure.
The old approaches were not producing the good results that we all sought. The ultimate solution eluded us, but we agreed on one thing. Our current paradigm needed to change. The problem, everyone agreed, was too large for any individual organization to solve alone. We discussed the merits of many solutions. From health systems leap-frogging development to avoid the lengthy path to salvation, to local production and effective market development.
Blog: Let us Talk about Health in Africa
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