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'Health is a human right': Governments show commitment at La Francophonie Summit 4 Dec 2014

La Francophonie Summit, that brings together 57 French language countries or countries with significant French-speaking population to discuss economic, culture, and development issues, was held in Dakar, Senegal on 27-29 November 2014.  This year's summit had Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) featured high on the agenda and Ebola — though not initially part of the agenda — was not forgotten by the incoming International community. 

A consortium of 8 INGOs operating in the region composed of, Save the Children, Action Aid, Action Contre la Faim, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Plan, Water Aid and World Vision, have been working to ensure that key Francophone donor countries such as Canada, France and Belgium would do more. But the idea of this consortium was also to ensure that words regarding Ebola would be included in the final declaration, with a strong emphasis on the secondary impact of the crisis, including impact on Health System, children and food security.

To achieve this, the INGOs got 21 West African artists, including Ismael Lo and Richard Bona, to sign an op-ed addressing the issue of preparedness of the neighboring countries and the need to show solidarity to the affected countries. This op-ed was published in many West African media, including Jeune Afrique, a weekly editorial that reaches over 60,000 people! 

The final Declaration for La Francophonie Summit

The Declaration affirmed that health is a human right and that the health of women, newborns and children is an essential condition to poverty reduction and sustainable development. The Declaration also recognized undernutrition as a significant issue responsible for 45% of deaths of children under 5 years.

The Declaration reaffirmed support for Every Woman Every Child, SUN, and Muskoka Initative.  The Declaration approved Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP) as a way to emphasize the importance of birth and the first 28 days of life for the survival of mothers and newborns. The Declaration noted that Ebola has demonstrated the weakness of the health systems in the affected countries and called for “continuation and strengthening of efforts to stop the transmission”. 

Read the Declaration in French and in English.

Beyond Ebola: A look at the crisis’ secondary impacts

A side-event was organized on 27 November focused on the long-term impact of the Ebola crisis on health systems, food security and children. Three organizations led the presentations on these topics and Save the Children presented its analysis on the Impact of Ebola on health systems.

Over 70 people attended the event, with a notable presence of partners such as MSF, including UN agencies and ECHO’s regional representative, Cyprien Fabre, but also members of Guinea’s children parliament.

A consensus emerged from the discussion which meant reflecting on the failure of the health system in West Africa and the need to rebuild, strengthen, and learning key lessons about the governance of Health System in West Africa.

Also noted during the discussions was the importance of anticipating and working on Ebola’s secondary impacts. Moreover the need to show more flexibility in the current response and programming in order to best address the rebuilding process in the affected countries was stressed. The initiative also showed the value of aid agencies working together as most agreed that the Ebola epidemic goes far beyond a health crisis.

A press conference was held following the roundtable discussion, with over 15 media outlets. This led to several interviews, notably a live intervention on TV5 Monde (which reaches over 250 million home viewers worldwide). 

Following the side event, the consortium of INGOs was invited to participate to a Ministerial Meeting on Ebola featuring 18 foreign ministers, and the Ministry of Health for Senegal. under the leadership of Canada, France and Senegalese Government.  

During the meeting, the Ministry showed appreciation for the international community’s solidarity, but agreed that international help is still too slow compared to the needs. All attendees agreed there were growing concerns regarding the wider social and economical impact of the crisis. The Ministries agreed that the crisis’ secondary impact on health system, food security and unaccompanied children in the overall response was needed.

Government of Canada announced an additional 20.9million for the Ebola response brining its commitment to 113m. In addition it committed 40 military personnel and announced it would be recruiting federal health workers ensuring 8 weeks pay and benefits for those who volunteer. 

Canada shows its support towards MNCH and the GAVI Alliance

Following on its commitment at the Saving the Lives of Every Woman and Every Child Summit in May, Canada continues its global MNCH 'tour'. Prime Minister, Stephen Harper made MNCH the centerpiece of his UNGA head of state speech and ensured that MNCH was on the agenda and part of the final Declaration for La Francophonie Summit.

Speaking about the MNCH focus, Stephen Harper said: “Canada will continue to exercise its leadership within La Francophonie to promote maternal, newborn and child health, with a special focus on immunization and nutrition. Canada will also continue to strongly promote education and vocational training, which are both essential to fostering sustainable economic growth, ensuring the prosperity of member countries, and thereby reducing poverty in the world.”

The Government of Canada announced $125 million to Micronutrient Initiative to tackle malnutrition and showed its solidarity towards the Gavi Alliance by announcing a significant increase in support to $500 million.