, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 11 – Public Health Minister Beth Mugo has challenged African countries to take the initiative and manufacture their own essential medicines.
Speaking at the opening of an international meeting on drugs and diagnostics at the United Nations offices in Nairobi, the Minister said that majority of the population in Africa continued to have limited access to essential drugs and other health products because of over reliance on the developed world.
She pointed out that there was a lot of untapped potential for health research and development in Africa.
"Until we can produce our medicines in Africa, we will not beat the war against disease," the Minister stated.
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi said the African continent remained the most neglected in health research while it continued to bear the greatest burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
"Africa also faces the challenge of research units that are over reliant on international funds some of which are not sustainable. There is a failure to establish proper links with national policy instruments and local private sector. The result is research that is not attuned to addressing national health needs," Mr Mudavadi said.
The global arena, he noted, had witnessed tremendous increase of organisational and institutional players in the health sector.
He however said that although these players could be viewed as an important resource, there was evidence that some had been responsible for research fragmentation of lack of capacity building in many countries.
"Let us not lose sight of the fact that only 10 percent of the worldwide expenditure on health research and development is devoted to the health problems affecting 90 percent of the world\’s population," he said.
He said Africa must be empowered to participate in debates and decisions about priority setting, regulatory frameworks and codes of ethics for research collaboration.
"A good starting point for this is for countries in the region to cooperate to tackle common regional health problems," he said.
The meeting is aimed at strengthening innovation for the development of essential medicines and other products to meet the health needs of the African continent.