Global Health Advocates (GHA) attended the 29th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly between the European Union and the Africa, Caribbean, Pacific group of states (EU-ACP JPA), which took place between 15 and 17 June 2015 in Suva, Fiji. On that occasion, GHA, as the co-host of the Secretariat of the European Parliament Working Group on Innovation, Access to Medicines and Poverty-Related Diseases (EPWG), brought attention about key global health issues to EU and ACP parliamentarians.
In particular, on Monday 15 June, GHA organised and moderated an event on “Financing health systems: a priority for the post-2015 development agenda”, which addressed key questions related to the need for raising sufficient funds to achieve the future SDG health goal and ensuring access to medicines and quality health services for every individual without discrimination.
The event was opened by Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, who highlighted the EU’s commitments on global health and stressed the work of the European Commission in strengthening health systems in partner countries, including through global initiatives such as the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Gavi Alliance.
It was then the turn of Ibrahim Bundu, Member of Parliament of Sierra Leone, who spoke about the experience of his country in fighting Ebola and the importance of increasing domestic public resources for health in order to reinforce national health systems in Africa and avoid future outbreaks of other infectious diseases.
MEP Juan Carlos Girauta Vidal, a member of the EPWG and the Research Committee of the European Parliament, stated that the right to health is paramount and highlighted the need to develop new medicines and vaccines for poverty-related and neglected diseases in order to realise such a right. MEP Girauta also stressed the need to work on pricing of drugs and intellectual property rules to ensure that they are coherent with public global health needs and objectives.
Finally, Ms. Nora Murat, Regional Director for East & South-East Asia and Oceania at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, spoke about the need for putting equity and the health of the most vulnerable at the centre of the future SDG health goal. Ms Murat also explained the challenges and opportunities for improving sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 framework.
On Tuesday 16 June, GHA, in partnership with Save the Children Fiji, organised a field visit to Kalekana, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Suva. The two thousands residents of the settlement have limited access to services, lack opportunities and face various social and economic challenges, including malnutrition. Malnutrition, which is common among young children in Kalekana as in other rural communities in Fiji, is the leading cause of childhood mortality in the country, with 420 deaths of children under the age of five were reported in 2013.
After being welcomed by the community with the traditional Yaqona ceremony and songs by local school children, around 30 parliamentarians from the EU and ACP countries had the opportunity to visit the community, talk with local leaders and health workers and understand the challenges related to nutrition and health in that context.
Delegates learnt about Save the Children’s projects, aiming to help children improve their nutritional status. Very importantly, this work follows a multisectoral approach, integrating nutrition with education, health, and child protection components, and is carried out through the involvement and empowerment of the community.
Parliamentarians witnessed the work of community health workers in improving nutrition and ensuring better health outcomes for children and adults in Kalekana. For instance, community health workers and Kindergarten teachers have been working to educate children, parents and caregivers, in order to ensure that they have nutritious meals and only drink healthy drinks at school. Community involvement in nutrition security is also carried out by helping families to grow fresh vegetables.
Parliamentarians received information on why good child nutrition is absolutely critical to the long-term health and productivity of any individual and recommendations on how to promote bold nutrition policies in both the EU and ACP countries. Overall the visit was a great success!
*Pictures kindly provided by Save the Children Fiji