WHO Regional Committee for Africa opens in Brazzaville

Brazzaville, 30 August -- Congolese President Denis Sassou- N'Guesso on Monday in Brazzaville opened the 54th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa with a tribute to the outgoing WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Ebrahim Samba, for his contribution to health development in the region in the past ten years.

"We would like to convey our deep gratitude to Dr Samba who is leaving behind an image of a man devoted to duty and action," Dr Sassou N'Guesso told the meeting.

Dr Samba, who was first elected as Regional Director in 1994, and re-elected in 1998, retires in January 2005.

In his speech, read by Transport and Privatisation Minister, Isidore Nvoumba, the Congolese President expressed the hope that progress in health development in the region would continue to be made through initiatives such as the Roll Back Malaria and the Tobacco-Free Initiatives, as well as programmes to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, prevent and control communicable and 'life-style' diseases, among others.

"In order to succeed in this exercise, it is necessary to win the battle for peace which is a condition for overcoming poverty", said the Congolese leader who also expressed gratitude to Africa's development partners for their assistance to the region. He hoped that Africans would attain a high level of health that would enable them lead socially and economically productive lives.

In his remarks, Congolese Health Minister, Mr. Alain Moka, stated that the Roll back Malaria programme, the "3 by 5" Initiative, the Millennium Development Goals and the New Partnership for Africa's Development were beacons of hope for the region in its fight against disease.

He also stressed the importance of strengthening health systems with a view to facilitating access by all to essential health care.

The minister said some of the actions that needed to be taken to improve the performance of health systems included human resource development, sustainable financing of health systems, the development of effective partnerships, and the putting in place of strategies to combat disease and poverty in order to contribute to the resolution of major health problems.

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