Vibrant energy marked the two days of the AHAIC Youth Pre-Conference on March 5th and 6th as over 200 young people from across the continent debated and deliberated on issues related to their health and wellbeing, and made their voices heard as a key target group and critical players in the Africa health agenda.
The colourful Opening Ceremony on Tuesday at the Radisson Blu was attended by the First Lady of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, and Malawi First Lady, Her Excellency Dr Gertrude Mutharika, who was the chief guest at the event.
Dr Mutharika, who is the President of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), assured the delegates that OAFLA was committed to pushing for youth-friendly programmes and activities in member countries, and greater youth involvement.
“I wish to assure you that as African First Ladies, as your mothers, we have resolved to provide more support to you. As OAFLA, we made this resolution at our Annual General Assembly held in January this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” she announced.
She emphasised the importance of including youth in the process of development. “Young people need to be an integral part in decision-making processes. Nothing for us without us. Nothing for poor people without the poor people. And nothing for youth without the youth,” she said.
Dr Mutharika commended Amref Health Africa for its work across Africa, and hailed the organisation’s partnership with OAFLA. “As African First Ladies, we value this partnership. I am confident that we have a great partner for youth development in Amref,” she said.
In her address, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said that Africa needs an inclusive and responsive health care system that caters for all, including the youth.
“We can no longer leave the youth behind. We can no longer push young people to the margins of our development efforts,” she said.
“One of the leading public health issues affecting youth which we need, as a continent, to address is HIV. Today, HIV is the leading killer of youth in Africa – which is extremely disheartening given the amount of information we have about this disease today,” added the Kenyan First Lady.
The opening ceremony was also addressed by the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Mrs Sicily Kariuki, Amref Health Africa Group CEO and chair of the conference Organising Committee Dr Githinji Gitahi, Ag UNFPA Country Representative Gift Mulanga, and Unicef Kenya Representative Werner Schultink.
Dr Gitahi described the youth as Africa Health Agenda’s ‘Number 1 stakeholder.’ “It is no longer about the youth but about the future of Africa as a continent. We want the youth to be central in everything,” he said.