Health leaders call for accelerated efforts to improve global health security
Geneva, 22 March 2007

Global health leaders today committed to upgrade international health security, particularly in Africa and politically sensitive areas. At a global health security summit held by the African Medical Association (AfMA), health leaders from around the world pledged to increase international collaboration for equal access and health security.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, regarded as an ambassador for health security focusing on Africa,the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and women’s health, said “Our children will not fully inherit the fruits of the liberation if we cannot overcome the enormous health challenges facing the continent of Africa.” She added: “My plea is that Africa and all other vulnerable regions not be left out of the global health security network.”

Poverty and political instability can inhibit access to care, especially in politically sensitive areas such as Somaliland. Optimal health security is difficult to achieve, as these areas are not officially recognized by international authorities.

“It is not fair that a country’s people have to pay the price of political instability through little or no access to a secure health network,” said Dr Kgosi Letlape, AfMA President. “Diseases spread and people die, but no one can do anything because of poverty and political insecurity. This has to change.” Dr Letlape called on all health leaders to ensure the universal application of the International Health Regulations, to be implemented starting June 2007.

In Somaliland, the lack of a recognized, centralized and unified government poses a major challenge for a coordinated HIV/AIDS response. Security concerns and the ongoing reliance on the peace process to build a more secure environment in Somalia will dramatically affect the capacity and ability to scale up and establish services for people living with HIV.

Global health security is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) designated theme for World Health Day this year. WHO is also increasing human and financial resources to implement the International Health Regulations. It is hoped that enhanced efforts such as these will provide equal access to improve global health security worldwide.

AfMA is a recently established international organization representing physicians in Africa that advocate the highest international standards in medicine and health care for people in the continent.