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The President of the Republic of Cabo Verde,Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca, has demonstrated his support for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) initiatives to transform health care throughout Africa by officially launching the three-day WHO Africa Health Forum in Praia.

He told participants about the significant progress that Cabo Verde has made towards delivering universal health coverage.

President Fonseca said: “We are honoured by the fact that our country is the setting for such an important debate with renowned specialists on such an important issue.

This is essential for the life and well-being of all people. Crucially, this Forum will have the participation of youth activists who will surely bring their world vision about the way their health issues should be addressed and how they can participate in implementing the decisions that come to be approved.”

President of Cabo Verde Jorge Carlos Fonseca giving his keynote and welcome address at the event held at the National Assembly in Praia, Cabo Verde

During his speech, the President took the opportunity to thank the United Nations for recognizing his efforts in fighting alcohol abuse with the Less Alcohol More Life campaign that has brought more than 100 government organizations and civil society groups together to prevent alcohol addiction.

Under the theme “Achieving Universal Health Coverage and Health Security in Africa: The Africa We Want To See”, the second WHO Africa Health Forum is hosting health care influencers from politics, academia, civil society, development partners and business.

“Since the early years of our independence WHO has been a strategic partner for health development in Cabo Verde, providing technical assistance and financing,” said Cabo Verde Minister of Health and Social Security, H.E. Dr Arlindo Nascimento do Ros├írio.

During his address, the Minister spoke about his country’s commitment to reduce child and mother mortality: “By 2021, we hope to achieve fewer than 13 per 1 000 live births.”

WHO is committed to driving universal health coverage and health security throughout Africa and to ensure that all individuals and communities receive the quality health care they need, without suffering financial hardship.

This supports the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals, which include the target of achieving universal health coverage by 2030.

“It is not by accident that we asked to bring this Forum to Praia,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“We came to be inspired and to learn from the remarkable progress that Cabo Verde has made in improving the health of its citizens.

The journey to universal health coverage will not only require that we go back to the basics of primary health care – working hand-in-hand with communities – but that we also optimize innovations and today’s fast-moving technological developments to deliver better health for all.”

Africa typically has more than 100 health emergencies every year, and during the opening ceremony, Dr Moeti called for one minute of silence for the people who have lost their lives in the recent twin tragedies of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tropical Cyclone Idai, which impacted Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

A highlight of the opening day was an exhibition by the 30 WHO Innovation Challenge finalists, which was officiated by the President of Cabo Verde with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Aiming to source, select and profile innovations, including community-based initiatives that apply new and fresh thinking to address Africa’s unmet health needs, the initiative attracted 2 471 applications.

Entries came in from 77 countries, 44 of them from African countries, with 34% of submissions from female innovators.

The first WHO Africa Health Forum, in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2017, resulted in a Call to Action. Significant progress has been made in meeting those goals.

New initiatives and multi-stakeholder partnerships have been founded, well-worn mechanisms have been reinvigorated, and countries continue to be supported in strengthening their health systems and preparing for disease outbreaks and health emergencies.

Through the second Africa Health Forum, WHO expects to significantly build on that progress, giving participants the opportunity to share and discuss their experiences in implementing previous commitments and to foster pan-African collaboration between public, private and non-government stakeholders.

During the three-day programme, themes such as the link between health security and achieving universal health coverage, multisector collaboration, youth engagement, private sector investment and harnessing innovations will be explored in depth.

WHO intends even more partnerships to emerge from this gathering, with the gains made since the first Forum in Kigali cemented, past lessons learned and the next steps to achieving universal health care clearly shaped.

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