ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- About half of all children who die globally before the age 5 mark are in Africa, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
The remark was made by Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA, during a high-level meeting of policymakers, regulators and industry experts in the field of pharmaceuticals and trade, which is underway at the ECA headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The ECA chief, noting that the African continent is home to 50 percent of all children who die before the age globally, stressed that "we cannot build a prosperous Africa if we have such a high mortality rate. The pharma initiative seeks to reduce costs and increase healthcare access."
"The tragedy is that these diseases are treatable and most related deaths could be prevented with timely access to appropriate and affordable medicines and people with lifelong diseases can lead productive lives," Songwe stressed.
According to figures from the ECA, the African continent, which is only home to about 11 percent of the world's population, accounted for about 25 percent of the world's burden of disease.
Experts and policymakers attending the high-level meeting also emphasized the crucial role of pooling procurement of essential drugs and products and expanding local pharmaceutical production as a "critical pathway to the prosperity of African citizens, thereby achieving universal healthcare in Africa."
Ethiopia's State Minister of Health, Lia Tadesse, also noted the East African country's efforts and gains made in improving its health system, which have resulted in plummeting rates of HIV, infectious diseases and maternal mortality due to a combination of political will and commitment and partnerships.
"The fight, however, is far from over; and this procurement pooling initiative is a strong foundation towards improving the Continent's supply chain management and an uninterrupted supply of pharmaceutical drugs," Tadesse said.
African Union (AU) Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira Elfadil, also during the meeting highlighted some of the regulatory mechanisms initiated by the 55-member pan African bloc to support and govern Africa's pharmaceutical sector.
Elfadil also indicated AU's collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the African Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC) and the African Medicine Agency (AMA), which she "seeks to ensure the coordination and strengthening of continental initiatives to harmonize medical products regulation, provide guidance and technical support to improve access to quality, safe and efficacious medical products and health technologies on the continent."
The meeting, among other things, discussed the role of African businesses in driving the growth in this sector as well as the need for financing instruments to facilitate pooled procurement. These include a strategic fund, levy and social bonds that can link up with financial markets.