The Sunday Mail
Takunda Maodza in Montevideo, URUGUAY
President Mugabe will spearhead the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa after he accepted a request by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be its goodwill ambassador on the continent. The President is here for the WHO global conference on NCDs. NCDs are chronic diseases that cannot be passed from person-to-person and include cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. President Mugabe’s acceptance of the challenge to lead Africa in the fight against NCDs was announced by WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday at the meeting of Heads of State and Government at the global conference.
“We are also honoured today to be joined by His Excellency President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a country that has placed universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health for all, and also the innovative financing for NCDs that we heard from President Mugabe,” he said.
“Today, I am honoured to announce that President Mugabe agreed to serve as the goodwill WHO ambassador for Africa. Thank you so much your Excellency for accepting that challenge.” Addressing the conference on Wednesday, President Mugabe outlined how Zimbabwe had adopted several strategies to combat challenges posed by new health outbreaks, including NCDs. He said the country, through the Ministry of Health and Child Care, had also developed a national NCDs policy.
“Efforts are also under way to establish an inter-Ministerial Task Force on Non-Communicable Diseases through the Ministry of Health and Child Care,” said President Mugabe.
“This initiative comes from our awareness that non-communicable diseases need a multi-sectoral response, and comes on the back of our highly-acclaimed Aids Levy. We have established Health Levy Fund, an innovative financing mechanism to raise resources for the procurement of medicines, supplies and equipment for the management of non-communicable diseases, among other conditions. This fund is derived from a five percent surcharge of mobile communications usage. In the case of non-communicable diseases, Zimbabwe has adopted a National Health Strategy spanning from 2016-2020, which we have dubbed ‘Equity and Quality in Health: Leaving No One Behind’.
“The strategy provides the framework that guides the efforts of our Ministry of Health and Child Care and all stakeholders in contributing to the attainment of the SDG3 (Sustainable Development Goal).” President Mugabe said Zimbabwe had since development a policy that was specifically targeted at dealing with NCDs.
“Zimbabwe has also developed a national non-communicable diseases policy, a palliative care policy, and has engaged United Nations agencies working in the country, to assist in the development of a Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control strategy to cover the period 2016 to 2020,” he said. President Mugabe said like all developing countries, Zimbabwe was hamstrung by lack of adequate resources for executing programmes aimed at reducing NCDs and other health conditions afflicting the people.
“My Government thus remains committed to work closely with the World Health Organisation, the private sector and the donor community in efforts to mobilise resources for programmes aimed at reducing non-communicable diseases,” he said. NCDs are primarily linked to common risk factors like harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Medical experts believe that changing lifestyles and adoption of a regimen of exercise can help prevent NCDs. President Mugabe said developing countries were struggling to move from commitment to action because of resource constraints and lack of technical capacity. This, he said, had been worsened by global economic challenges facing fragile economies, which naturally had a negative effect on national health systems.
“Against this inauspicious backdrop, the importance of strong national health systems and interventions cannot be overemphasised,” said President Mugabe.
“And these are predicated and should underline the need to strengthen health systems, health care infrastructure, human resources for health and social protection systems, particularly in developing countries.” President Mugabe said in the fight against NCDs, the onus should fall on all parties – principally governments, all development partners, civil society and communities. He acknowledged the leading role played by WHO as the primary specialised agency on health matters.