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WHO calls for "special approach" to address needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria

The burden of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria remains "unacceptably high" in sub-Saharan Africa and a "special approach" is now needed to address the specific needs and challenges of children affected by the three diseases.

This view was expressed by the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, in a statement at the opening on Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria, of a ministerial meeting on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.

"Reducing child morbidity and mortality remains one of the main challenges due to the high burden of the diseases …and this situation is aggravated by poverty, natural and man-made disasters, and weak health systems among other key determinants of health," Dr Sambo told the African health ministers.

The meeting is part of a special 2 to 4 May African Union Summit on the three diseases which culminates Thursday in attendance by African Heads of State and Government, United Nations Agencies and other development partners.

The Summit will, among other things:

  • review the status of implementation of the Abuja Declarations of 2000 and 2001 on the three diseases
  • adopt a renewed commitment to enable Africa meet the targets set in the Abuja Declarations and the Millennium Development Goals, and
  • adopt strategies for combating the diseases at the national and continental levels.

The Regional Director expressed WHO’s full support for the principle of universal access to services but warned that this could not be realized without addressing the human resources crisis in terms of training and retraining, motivation, retention and appropriate deployment of skilled health workers.

"Universal access should imply an evolving global partnership, increased Government allocation of financial resources to the health sector and implementation of effective poverty reduction strategies " he said adding: "This, coupled with more efficient management of existing resources would facilitate the scaling up of priority health interventions and ultimately contribute to significant reduction in morbidity and mortality in Africa."

Dr Sambo stated that in spite of the challenges faced in tackling the three killer diseases, some progress had been recorded in addressing them. These include an increase in access by AIDS patients to antiretroviral therapy from 1% in 2003 to 17% in 2005; the decline in some countries of the rate of new HIV infections; the availability of the WHO-recommended Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) for TB treatment in most countries in the region, and the adoption, by 36 countries in the region, of the policies on the use of the more efficacious Artemisinin based Combination Therapy (ACTs) for treating malaria. Nineteen countries are currently implementing ACTs policies.

Dr Sambo pledged WHO's commitment to continue to work with countries and development partners to contribute to the attainment of the highest possible level of health by African countries.

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