Wife of Nigerian President, Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari has emphasized the need for governments in Africa to work together to facilitate private sector investment in health with a view to improve outcomes within the continent. She said due to the enormity of negative health outcomes, governments of individual countries cannot effectively tackle these challenges. She called for extraordinary actions and innovative partnerships to ensure their realization as embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mrs. Buhari was speaking at the 19th General Assembly of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) on Tuesday 4th July, 2017 at the African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
She advocated for support to government efforts because, as she said, “with the emerging diseases and health related humanitarian emergencies of the 21st Century, the need to complement government efforts towards achieving Universal Health Coverage provides more than enough justification for greater involvement of the private sector in both delivery and financing of health care services”.
She raised key areas of intervention by spouses of Presidents in this area to include advocacy for the review of obnoxious policies, raising awareness on important areas of intervention and encouraging investment on women, which has the dual impact of positive health outcomes and economic empowerment for self-reliance.
Newly-elected President of OAFLA and Wife of the President of Ethiopia, Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, in her welcome address said that harnessing the demographic dividend of Africa is crucial for economic transformation and that to realize this, consolidating and scaling up best practices within a country and across the nations in Africa is mandatory.
Mrs. Buhari had narrated her experience through Future Assured, which she encouraged other members to emulate in their countries due to its impact. They include the women health initiative, which in collaboration with the private sector screens women for killer diseases, the nutritional programme for pregnant women and the Get involved initiative, which raised half a million dollars in essential nutritional materials for malnourished children, including those in IDP camps. All these interventions, she said, succeeded due to the involvement of the private sector.
She also spoke of a partnership initiated with the First Lady of Niger Republic to support refugee women and children in the Lake Chad Basin, for which a meeting is to be convened soon in Abuja.
Michel Sidibe, Chairman UNAIDS, in his presentation revealed that 60% of the African population is under-25 years of age and therefore the most vulnerable. He averred that they need to be protected, especially against harmful cultural practices.
Goodwill messages were delivered by the Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union Commission, Madame Amirah Elfadil Mohammed, who pointed out that systematic and integrated approaches are needed in all the four areas of the demographic dividend pillars; health and wellbeing; employment and entrepreneurship; education and skills development and rights and good governance to register unprecedented progress, in turning the current youth bulge, into an economic dividend for Africa.
Others who spoke at the event are Prof. Dr. Frank Strangenberg – Haverkamp Chairman of the Executive and Family Board of E – Merck KG, a leading science and technology company, and partner to OAFLA as well as WHO and UNFPA.
The theme of the 19th General Assembly, Building on 15 years of engagement to harness the demographic dividend of Africa through promoting the needs of adolescents and their access to youth-friendly health services is apropos to the theme of the 29th General Assembly of the African Union.
In a communique which was read by Mrs. Aisha Buhari, members of OAFLA expressed their commitment to work in close collaboration with private sector partners in order to secure financial and technical support to implement programmes targeting African adolescents.
Mrs. Buhari has since left Addis Ababa to the United Kingdom.