The Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) will go down as a historic event for Community Health Workers across Africa following the launch of a continental campaign to get them paid and integrated into the formal health system.

The campaign was launched at the official opening of AHAIC 2017 yesterday. The event drew the attendance of more than 700 delegates, which is almost double the initial number expected.

“Considering that more than 50 per cent of Africans do not access the formal health system, Community Health Workers are a critical and necessary part of the continent’s health infrastructure, helping to link the communities to the health system,” said Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO of Amref Health Africa and chairman of the conference’s Organising Committee. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, stressed the importance of a community-based health system, as this was where the health care need was most pressing.

“Community Health Workers need sustainable careers and a stable income,” said Dr Moeti.

Community Health Workers take Centre-stage at AHAIC Opening Ceremony

Community Health Workers take Centre-stage at AHAIC Opening Ceremony

Dr Jackson Kioko delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony on behalf of Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Dr Cleopa Mailu. He noted that health systems in Africa have experienced numerous challenges, including a huge burden of diseases, sub-optimal public investments and weak capacity to cope with emerging public health challenges. “The systems were oriented largely towards addressing communicable diseases but they are now overstretched by the ever increasing burden of non-communicable diseases and injuries,” he said.

Speaking on the role of private sector in achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, David Pritchard, Vice President Africa and Emerging Markets for GSK, said the company believed in releasing the potential of community health workers through knowledge transfer.

“We do this by reinvesting 20% of our profits from least developed countries in training frontline health care workers. Working with partners like Amref, we have invested approximately Euro£21 million, trained 43,000 health workers and reached 17.5 million people in 39 countries,” said Pritchard.

The three-day conference is attended by delegates from across Africa, and has representatives from the African Union, UN agencies, donor agencies, African governments, private sector, research and academic institutions.

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