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...President Museveni Commends Partner States on Regional Centers of Excellence in the Health Sector


East African Community Headquarters, Kampala, Uganda, 25 March 2015: Uganda's Vice President His Excellency Edward Ssekandi this morning represented HE Yoweri Kaguta Museveni at the official opening of the 5th Annual East African Health and Scientific Conference and International Health Exhibition and Trade Fair at the Kampala Serena Hotel in Uganda.


In a statement read by his Vice, President Museveni commended the EAC Secretariat and the Partner States for initiating the process of establishing Regional Centers of Excellence (CoEs) in the Health sector namely Nephrology and Urology in the Republic Kenya, Oncology in the Republic of Uganda, Cardiovascular in the United Republic of Tanzania and Biomedical Engineering and eHealth in the Republic of Rwanda.


He said this initiative will enhance EAC Competitiveness through highly skilled health workforce in biomedical sciences and also enable the East African citizens access quality and specialized services within the region.


The first phase of the project is expected to cost USD 72.75 million and will be supported by the African Development Bank.  The CoEs are expected to deliver high quality and skilled personnel in the specialized fields and reduce medical tourism, which costs EAC Governments an estimated of USD 150 million annually for treatment of Non-Communicable Diseases abroad.


At the same occasion, the Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors Hon. Jesca Eriyo, who represented the Secretary General Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera, informed the delegates that there was strong evidence that an investment in people's health was a key asset for society and for the economy as a whole.


"As you may be aware, the Health sector is also leading in creating Job opportunities and a driver of innovation and technology" noted Hon. Eriyo, adding that "As such, health systems strengthening have an important role in achieving Millennium Development Goals to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth in the Health Sector and Economy at Large.


The Deputy Secretary reiterated that the overarching goal of the EAC Health Sector Programme was to establish and sustain stronger regional health systems including health research institution. In this regard, the EAC official informed the delegates that, the Protocol for Establishment of the East African Community Health Research Commission (EACHRC) had been ratified by all the five Partner States and instruments of ratification have already been deposited with the EAC Headquarters.


She disclosed that the EAC Council of Ministers and the East African Legislative Assembly had already appropriated USD 924,067 in the EAC Budget for the current financial year (FY 2014/2015) to facilitate operationalization of the East African Health Research Commission in the Republic of Burundi.


Hon. Eriyo also disclosed that the Community had developed scorecard, tools and indicators to track results and resources through the open health initiative (OHI) and that a regional data warehouse for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent health and nutrition had been developed and plans were underway to expand and include data for communicable and non-communicable diseases surveillance in order to strengthen integrated approaches for disease prevention, control and management.


Uganda's Minister of Health, Dr Ellioda Tumwesigye informed the delegates that Uganda was proud to host the conference, which was providing an opportunity and a platform for synthesizing, sharing and dissemination of research findings to inform policy makers and programmers on evidence-based decision-making and mobilization of political will and resources for the Health Sector.


Burundi's Minister in the office of the President Responsible for EAC Affairs Hon. Leontine Nzeyimana saluted the EAC Partner States for initiating the Annual East African Health and Scientific Conference and International Health Exhibition, and informed the delegates that her country had initiated several measures geared towards mother and child care which includes, among others, free treatment for mothers and children under the age of 5.


Zanzibar's Minister of Health Hon. Rashid Seif Suleiman said strengthening health care services especially primary health care in the rural areas was very critical in the region and that investing in infrastructure, human resources, diagonistic services in medicine was good but most important of all was how to deliver the health care services to the people in the region.


Health and Social Welfare Deputy Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania Hon. Dr. Kebwe Stephen Kebwe, who is also the Chairperson of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for Health, informed the conference that globally, 2015 was a special year for the health sector in taking stock of what had been achieved during the MDGs of which 3 goals (MDG 4, 5 and 6) were health related.


He said the Conference was an opportunity for the region to re-align itself to the post 2015 era with regard to the health sector. "As we review the progress made to date and share experiences in this conference, it is important that we renew our commitment towards enhancing health sector investments, strengthening of health systems and the attainment of Universal Health Coverage in the EAC", affirmed the Chairperson of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for Health.


He noted that the momentum on regional cooperation had reached a point of no return and the Partner States were working more closely than ever before to improve public health. "Apart from developing robust policies, we are implementing various provisions of the Common Market Protocol which seeks to enhance free movement of people, capital, services and goods across the region, thereby improving the environment for doing business in the health sector and beyond".


The Conference, themed Investing in Health through strengthening regional health systems, and institutions towards the prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases, is being attended by over 700 stakeholders.

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