African Health Ministers meet virtually to address key continental health challenges

Ministers of Health and representatives from African countries will meet virtually for the Seventy-first session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa from 24 – 26 August 2021.

The Regional Committee is the Organization’s decision-making body and the gathering is the premier meeting on public health in Africa, convening 47 Health Ministers once a year to discuss and endorse regional policies, activities and financial plans to improve people’s health and well-being.

More than 400 delegates, including Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, WHO Director-General, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Representatives of United Nations (UN) Agencies, Funds and Programmes, civil society, bilateral and multilateral organizations and other development partners will participate in the annual flagship event.

Among the issues to be discussed are: scaling up COVID-19 response; accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem; improving access to assistive health technologies; bolstering uptake of digital health; reinforcing an integrated response to tuberculosis, HIV, sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis; defeating meningitis by 2030; and sustainable financing of WHO. There will also be a special session on polio outbreak

response and polio transition in the WHO African Region.


24 August 2021

10:15–11:30 Global strategy on digital health in the WHO African Region

While there is significant progress in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in health and health-related fields, majority of countries in the region use digital health solutions in pilot mode. Several challenges remain, including limited digital health leadership capacity at national level, limited multisectoral arrangements for digital health, limited financial resources and low level of health worker involvement in digital health. To mitigate these challenges, WHO adopted a global digital health strategy in 2020 to advance and apply digital health technologies for better health outcomes. The Committee is expected to discuss and adopt the framework to ensure effective implementation among countries.

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14:00–17:00 – Special event on the COVID-19 response in the WHO African Region

The special event on the COVID-19 response will focus on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic response across the Region and include a status report on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and uptake. The Ministers will exchange ideas on approaches to tackling the pandemic and post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

25 August 2021

11:30–12:45 Improving access to assistive technology 

Over 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (WHO African Region) need at least one assistive technology product, with the figure is projected to double by 2050. Currently, only about 15% to 25% of people who require assistive products have access to them.  The prevalence of disabilities in the region is estimated at 15.6%. The framework seeks to have 40% of the population in need of assistive products in the region gain access to them by 2030 without suffering financial hardship. It provides countries with effective policy actions to increase availability and affordability of assistive technology according to their specific needs and contexts

26 August 2021

10:15–11:30 Strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem in the WHO African Region

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women in Africa, and the fourth most common globally. In 2020 over 72 000 women in Africa died of cervical cancer, more than half of these had HIV. Despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines that prevent infection, only 16 countries currently have existing HPV vaccine programmes. WHO is committed to getting 90 percent of all 15 year old and below vaccinated by 2030, and is supporting the efforts to accelerate the elimination of cancer as a public health problem by 2030. The framework, if adopted will accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer in the African Region

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11:00 – 12:00 Virtual Press Conference


  • Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa and other guests

15:00–16:00    Improving Healthy Ageing in the African Region

Sub-Saharan Africa has around 54 million people aged 60 years and above. The number of older people is growing fastest in Africa, followed by Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. Projections indicate that nearly 80% of the world’s older population will live in less developed countries by 2050. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the plight of older people in sub-Saharan Africa. The virus had claimed the lives of over 17 000 people aged 55 and above by October 2020. COVID-19 response by countries has not been specific to older people in the region. The framework proposes measures to alter how we think and act towards age and ageing, support older people, provide care and primary health services as well as access to long-term care.