Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor
THE East, Central and Southern African health community has been challenged to prioritise mental health, especially among youths and adolescents as the scourge of drug and substance abuse haunts the continent.
Health ministers and experts under the auspices of the East, Central and Southern African Health Community (ECSA-HC) met in Geneva, Switzerland, this Friday ahead of the World Health Assembly to take stock of strides made so far towards attaining universal health coverage as well as challenges and areas which need urgent attention.
The health ministers conference is the organisation’s highest governing body which meets at least once a year to review policy matters and national health strategies as well as define regional health priorities.
Vice President General (Retired) Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who is leading the Zimbabwean delegation, called for more efforts to be channelled towards drug and substance abuse among youths and adolescents, which is now haunting the continent.
“I pointed out the issue of mental health, drug and substance abuse to my colleagues because these are issues which are currently affecting our youth,” said Dr Chiwenga.
“If we do not look after this generation, we could lose them and the consequences thereafter will be catastrophic. We cannot see the danger now, but as we move, we, the older generation, are ageing and there will be that big gap with no one to fill.
“It is no longer a one-country problem, we are saying all of us in Africa are being affected. We have to come up with concrete plans as ministers of health and our professionals to see how we can work with our colleagues so that there can be a holistic approach.”
Established in 1974, the East Central and Southern African Health Community (ECSA-HC) is an inter-governmental health organisation that fosters and promotes regional cooperation among member states on health matters.
The member states include Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The main objective of the organisation is to raise the standard of health for the people of the ECSA region by promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of health services through cooperation, collaboration, research, capacity building, policy development and advocacy.