By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
December 30th, 2022
There are health issues, like anywhere else, in the Horn of Africa States. The region, however, lacks many features related to health and health services in many other regions. These, among others, include lack of co-ordination among the those who provide health services in the region, be they doctors, paramedics, ambulance services, health education services and, most of all, among the ministries of health and health services in the region. The region does not enjoy co-ordinated health service information nor co-operation in the provision of health services or health programs. The region does not own epidemiological surveillance systems nor inter-country emergencies provisions.
The region, at times, attempted to use the failed IGAD organization, to create co-ordination and co-operation processes on these health service matters in the region, but this ended to naught. IGAD includes countries who have other major commitments to other regions such as the East Africa Community and does not truly serve the Horn of Africa States. The fact that ministers of health and other health auxiliary services do not meet and discuss matters in regional conferences adds on to the lack of developing a regional health service program.
The Horn of Africa States have the same health issues, vulnerabilities and common crisis. The region is inhabited by the same people who are genetically vulnerable to the same diseases and common health issues. Yet the health services of the region do not take advantage of the experiences of each other and here is where the real weakness of the health system lies. The region suffers from common problems such as famines and droughts, environmental degradation, civil strives and hence acute shortages of food and displacement of large populations from their traditional lands to urban areas, hence causing undue pressures on the administrations of the region. Yet they do not co-operate!
The region shares many issues. It is affected by both man-made and natural disasters, and it is affected by civil conflicts within and across the national borders within the region. These make the region so poor when it is not really poor and make the region so weak when it could be a strong one, and so dependent on others, when it could be assisting others. The common diseases of the region such as tuberculosis and malaria have now been more aggravated by the diseases of late such as Corona virus and other viruses brought in from beyond the region.
The World Health Organization (“WHO”) attempts to tackle health issues of the region as one block, but these are hindered to a large extent by the lack of co-ordination among the ministries of health services in the region, which are the key to achieving the desired impact of health service activities in the region. Note the region owns a large rural population, both pastoral and agricultural, where access to health services is limited. The regional health services is further weakened by lack of up to date and co-ordinated health information systems, haphazard delivery of services, lack of co-ordinated health service regional programs and inequalities of health service deliveries. Health services is a major business activity in the region these days, and only those who can afford it can have access to it.
The region needs regular inter-country meetings and conferences to address common issues and emergencies and in particular when it comes to the fast-developing global viruses. Such periodical inter-country meetings should monitor action plans agreed upon and developments thereon. Exchange of information among the SEED countries would greatly assist in the development of co-ordinated health service provisions in the region.
Using health services, as a bridge would add greatly on to installing of peace and stability and hence development of the region. It is where training and workshops within the region would play roles in introducing the health service providers to each other and where collaboration among them would contribute to addressing common diseases and vulnerabilities. The need to fight together communicable diseases, the sharing of resources and information, the sharing of early warnings on outbreaks and hence assisting preparedness for emergencies, would add on to strengthening cooperation and integration, not only in the economic front but also in the other sectors of life such as health services and education represent.