Asmara, Eritrea March 18, 2019: The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, today called on Expanded Programme on Immunization managers in the 20 East and Southern African countries to redouble efforts to strengthen immunization services by accelerating implementation of the Addis Declaration on Immunization to attain the Universal Health Coverage.
Speaking at the official opening of the three-day annual EPI Managers’ Meeting for East and Southern African countries in Asmara, Dr. Moeti applauded the member states for the political commitment to achieve UHC and immunization targets as attested by the heads of states endorsement of the Addis Declaration on Immunization in 2017, however she lamented the slow progress in achieving the set targets.
“As programme managers, you have a critical role in ensuring implementation of these high-level political commitments (ADI and UHC). It is my hope that your meeting will result in actions that will accelerate implementation of the Addis Declaration” Dr Moeti said.
Dr Moeti congratulated ESA countries for adapting and implementing WHO’s Reaching Every District (RED) to achieve common immunization targets and address the immunity gaps and the inequities. Rwanda and Eritrea were singled out as countries that had successfully implemented the components of the RED strategy with community and government ownership of immunization services.
Efforts to eliminate and eradicate vaccine preventable diseases in the African region have been affected by sporadic disease outbreaks and conflicts in some countries. She called on the participants to share experiences and lessons learned on innovative ways to reach all the children with lifesaving vaccines in difficult circumstances.
Speaking at the same occasion UNICEF Representative to Eritrea Dr Pierre Ngom emphasized that the solid immunization supply chain systems in Eritrea were the backbone of the EPI program.
“Eritrea’s cold chain and vaccine management systems are well established and are able to handle the country’s current needs and additional new vaccines such as the Meninigtis A vaccine that is due to be introduced this year,” Dr Ngom said.
The WHO Representative to Eritrea, Dr Josephine Namboze underscored that the success in implementing Eritrea’s health programmes stemmed from the country’s political commitment and leadership, active community involvement at lower levels and its efforts towards universal health coverage.
“The political leadership and commitment to lifesaving interventions in Eritrea has been instrumental in coordinating stakeholder and partner participation, not only in immunization and other child survival activities but also other health interventions,” Dr Namboze said.
She added that the government of Eritrea was working towards ensuring affordability and sustainability of all immunization interventions and programmes as stipulated in the Addis Declaration on Immunization, to which the country is signatory.
The UN Resident Coordinator Ms Susan Ngongi applauded the robust immunization systems in Eritrea due to solid political will and commitment to health in general. She, however, added that in view of the peace developments in the region, the country needed to implement cross border disease prevention and control activities with neighbouring countries to minimise disease transmission.
“As Eritrea integrates more closely with the region there will inevitably be increased human population movements across national borders, it is upon Eritrea and all of us to ensure that there is minimal exposure to cross border disease transmission,” said Ms Ngongi.
Health minister for Eritrea, Ms Amina Nurhussein expressed gratitude to the immunization partners for the support given that has resulted in her country reaching a remarkable 98 per cent immunization coverage for all antigens. She reiterated that all countries needed to implement political commitments such as ADI to reach Universal Health coverage.
“Governments and development partners need to continue to focus on supporting vaccination and related child health interventions in order to speed up the attainment of SDGs on reducing child mortality to no more than 20 per 1000 live births by the year 2030, this will mark real progress and development,” Ms Nurhussein said.
The EPI Managers’ meeting for East and Southern Africa is conducted annually to discuss issues, share lessons and develop recommendations for the coming year. The meeting will be focusing on 3 specific areas: updates on Regional Immunization Strategic Plan (RSPI) 2014-2020 and Addis Declaration on Immunization Road map (ADI Road map), maintaining the gains from the Polio Eradication Initiative in the Sub-region, updates on Gavi Policies and Strategies as well as on targeted Vaccine-preventable diseases Outbreaks, Control and Elimination.
Over 200 participants drawn from Ministries of Health and immunization partners will deliberate and share innovative ideas resulting in agreement on actions and steps that are needed to immunize unreached children and help prevent future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases under the theme “Protected Together: Vaccines Work!”