WHO regional committee adopts strategy to address NCDs

By Abigirl Tembo,Health Editor

WORLD Health Organisation member states attending the 72nd Session of the Regional Committee for Africa in Togo have adopted a regional strategy to address severe non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at primary health care facilities.

Ministers and representatives of 47 countries, international experts and various stakeholders are gathered in Lome, Togo to map the way forward on the continent’s fight against Non-Communicable Diseases.

The package of essential non-communicable disease interventions (PEN) was designed for the prevention, early detection, treatment and care of diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular illnesses and associated risk factors.

Member states attending the 72nd Session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Africa have adopted the strategy to intensify the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

“Zimbabwe has been implementing the WHO-PEN program and has recently conducted an assessment to identify the gaps in implementing the programme. We are glad to see that the WHO-PEN Plus Strategy addresses the gaps noted. One of the gaps noted was the unavailability of essential medicines and diagnostics. We would like to propose that on the issue of resources, we consider models that promote sustainability as NCD interventions are expensive to implement.

“We propose that we integrate and leverage on resources in other programs such as HIV/AIDS. We also recommend the full participation of people living with NCDs in all activities. We also propose of data management for NCDs. Zimbabwe fully supports the adoption of the regional strategy to address severe non-communicable diseases at first-level referral facilities as we work towards attaining Universal Health Coverage,” said Zimbabwe’s representative, Ms Venus Mushininga.

“People with NCDs were greatly affected by COVID-19 as they were at high risk of succumbing to the virus. Over the years, we have managed to strengthen our response to NCDs so we are adopting the strategy,” noted South Africa’s Minister of Health, Mr Joe Phaahla.

“We are adopting the pen strategy as we move towards lessening the burden of NCDs. Kenya intends to significantly scale up a project on diabetes we have also made great Strides in implementing PEN at the primary health care levels. Kenya applauds the WHO for the pen strategy,” said a Kenyan representative.

Globally, non-communicable diseases are the main causes of morbidity and mortality, accounting for 72% of global deaths.

In the African region, the proportion of mortality due to NCDs ranges from 27% to 88%, hence the existing level of funding allocated to NCD prevention and control is generally insufficient.

Member states are therefore calling for additional internal and external resources for this strategy to be successfully implemented.