Even if the world should forget the lessons from COVID-19, Africa cannot afford to forget the bitter lesson of the consequences of overdependence on the west for her vaccines and other forms of medicines. Africa must learn to be self sufficient, produce vaccines on its own soil to protect its people.
In this special interview with barrister Davidson Oturu, he shares his expert views on how patent waver or compulsory licensing can help countries mass produce vaccines and other forms of pharmaceuticals during emergencies such as COVID-19.
The priority health research agenda is one of the key tools which can help the health sector to identify and implement research based on the need of the country
BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Republic of the), November 8, 2021/APO Group/ — On 4 November 2021, the Ministry of Health, Eritrea, organized a Consensus building workshop for the National Health Research Agenda document which the country has developed. The objective of the priority health agenda consensus workshop was to give all the technical expertise an opportunity to review and further enrich the document before final printing and dissemination.
The priority health research agenda is one of the key tools which can help the health sector to identify and implement research based on the need of the country. Eritrea, as a continuation of commitment towards efforts and achievements of SDG and UHC targets has been making different approaches and initiatives to accelerate evidence-based policy directions.
The country has drafted a National Health Research Agenda 2022-2026 whose objective is to give guidance for policymakers, researchers, funding agencies and other relevant parties on the top areas of research priority for health. The National Health Research Agenda was developed in collaboration with WHO and other stakeholders including health training institutions. Thus, resources can be equitably allocated, and knowledge and evidence can be produced so as to be used by planners, decision makers and policy makers. The last priority health agenda for Eritrea covered the year 2013 to 2017.
The MOH first established advisory committee and core-team to undertake planning, situation analysis, information gathering and synthesis as well as stakeholders’ consultations. The consultative process was conducted with different stakeholders such as the MOH at HQ as well as at the Zoba (Zonal) level, Academia, relevant line ministries and the UN Agencies working in the health sector. The thematic focus areas that have been prioritized include:
Research to enhance and extend healthy lives
Research on Health systems
Research on Social, educational and behavioral health determinants and
Research on healthcare innovations.
During the opening remarks of the workshop, Dr Berhane Debru, Director General of Policy, Planning and Human Resources Development welcomed participants and elaborated the timely importance of health research priority agenda. Dr. Berhane further explained that due to the transformation of health care delivery system and the dynamics of diseases and health conditions it is important that that research priorities for the country should be determined for short and longer terms. He further emphasized that it is key to streamline and coordinate top health research priorities. He explained that during the process of priority setting for health research agenda the following facts were taken into consideration
1. Research must be demand driven which can respond to a broader group of stakeholders
2. Magnitude of burdens, urgency of subject matter and also responding to social justice and equity
3. Research must be accepted ethically, socially and politically
4. Feasibility for undertaking is also very critical
5. Research should complement and avoid duplication of already existing knowledge.
Dr Martins Ovberedjo, WHO Representative on his remarks congratulated the Ministry of Health under the leadership of the Honourable, Minister of Health, Amina Nurhussien and thanked all who contributed their valuable expertise to the production of priority health research agenda. Dr Martins emphasized on the importance of the priority health research agenda as it will accelerate towards the achievements of UHC and SDG targets for Eritrea.
He elaborated that research is a constant process of searching knowledge and information, thus it is part of our day today life. He also stated that our research should not focus only on academic objectives, but rather to bring practical improvement to health of our children, mothers and general population living in all places of Eritrea. He also reminded participants that research results must be used to guide policy directions and reforms.
During the workshop participants were divided themselves into four groups and reviewed the Priority Health Research document. Each of the four groups presented comments and plenary discussion was conducted. Finally, all comments and points were considered, and the key ones incorporated into the final draft of the document. The priority health Research agenda 2021-2026 will be widely disseminated and put in public domain.
The Global Director, Developing 8 (D-8) Organisation – Health and Social Protection (D-8 HSP) Programme and former Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Dr. Ado Muhammad says Nigerian states of Bauchi, Niger, Katsina and Plateau among others are sitting on huge untapped deposits of Kaolin – a vital pharmaceutical ingredient in the manufacturing of drugs by pharmaceutical giants.
Dr. Ado made the revelation during an exclusive interview with HealthInformatics.Africa while speaking on the mandates of D-8 support to member countries of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey with a combined population coverage of over 1.5 billion people.
D-8 Organisation Health and Social Protection (D-8 HSP) Programme is working with its member countries to support them and fast track attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1,2 and 3 which speak to poverty, hunger, and then health and wellbeing.
D-8 has identified three priority programmes through which it is supporting member countries, one of which includes Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by studying the activities of member countries that are doing well with their health coverage (e.g Turkey with a coverage of 90-91%) to see how their systems could be used adopted to help promote UHC in struggling countries like Nigeria which is barely able to make 5%.
“So what we are doing is to see how we can support Nigeria and other countries to see how we and improve and then come up with Universal Health Coverage in such a way that each and every citizen or each and every person that stays in Nigeria or within any D-8 countries get access to affordable, qualitative and then trusted healthcare at the point of need.
“We are working on that landscape and that is why we are pursuing a very potent, realistic but ambitious programme which has to do with Innovative Financing in which we are thinking out of the box to how we can support the government of Nigeria to have additional funding for the health system. Because Government alone cannot provide funding for the system.”
Dr. Ado also explained that the second priority programme is about trade in health. This he said is aimed at repositioning the health sector as an economic driver and not a drag sector as it is currently perceived in most of the D-8 countries.
According to the Global Director of D-8 HSP, over the years health has been viewed as just an expenditure and not an investment but D-8 HSP wants to change the narrative so that as solid minerals and other sectors are discussed, it will include health.
“We are working towards making sure that health is a major contributor to the economy. Let me give an example; there is a product called kaolin, it is being used in pharmaceutical industries all over the world and in Nigeria. But unfortunately, Nigeria does not have that refined Kaolin which is the pharmaceutical compliant version. So pharmaceutical industries import it.
“We have carried out a major research across the countries and we have found out that a member country which is Indonesia which is a major manufacturer of drugs in the world, imports it from China and they import 460 million Dollars’ worth of it annually.
“Now we are in a discussion between the Government of Nigeria, and we are brokering as well as facilitating, and we also in a discussion with pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria to support the government of Nigeria to be able to start exploring Kaolin and refining it to be pharmaceutically complaint so that such products will be exported to Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries. And we estimate that by the time we are done with that, Nigeria should be able to export at least about 450 million dollars of Kaolin to only Indonesia.
Speaking on the amount if Kaolin deposits in Nigeria, Dr. Ado said “There are huge deposits in Niger state, huge deposits in Katsina state, and then Plateau, there are all over. And these are untapped, and even when they are tapped they have not been converted into pharmaceutical compliant component that will be used.”
D-8 HSP is also supporting Nigeria and other member countries to develop a health system that is robustly supported by evidential data. It is described as a performance based data management system.
He explained that D-8 HSP is supporting the Government of Nigeria to use data to drive policy, “We are supporting the government of Nigeria to drive policy. You will agree with me that policy decisions are determined not by science but by sentiment and by other hidden interest and that is what has always obtained within the governance architecture over the years.
“But we are working with this administration now so that within the health landscape, that every we do will be driven by data. And the D-8 HSP has that capacity and competence to support the Government of Nigeria, using existing data in the National Bureau of Statistics, and also some in the Federal Ministry of Health, in such a way that we can use that to drive policy and also assess impact of intervention programmes so that policy decisions will be driven by statistics and science.