On 17th May, health ministers of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth, along with partner organisations, civil society and policymakers will gather for the annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (CHMM).
The meeting will be held virtually under the theme ‘The Road to COVID-19 Recovery: Lessons Learnt for Building Health System Resilience to advance UHC and Global Health Security in the Commonwealth’ and will provide a forum for health leaders to assess the current health situation in the Commonwealth and discuss key resolutions and areas of action on public health issues as the world recovers from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than one million of our brothers and sisters across the Commonwealth.
COVID-19 vaccine equity remains a critical issue in the Commonwealth, and across the world – with more than 40% of the 2.5 billion people across our family of 54 nations yet to receive a single dose.
The pandemic has also exposed the inherent weaknesses and inequities in our health systems, with even the most advanced health systems dealing with major disruptions to essential services and strains on the workforce. This has been magnified for the Commonwealth’s small and least-developed states.
As Commonwealth Health Ministers convene, we all share a clear need to ensure our health systems are well-prepared, well-resourced, and flexible enough to withstand the shocks caused by health-related emergencies – and to provide the foundation for sustainable development.
We can achieve these goals by working together and I am confident that we can emerge from this week’s Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting, and look towards the World Health Assembly and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, with renewed unity and purpose.”
In keeping with the spirit of cooperation among member states, participants will have the opportunity to share knowledge and good practices in building resilient health systems, reflect on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to inform ongoing recovery, and explore innovative approaches that can be adopted by member countries on challenges such as vaccine inequity and strategies to bolster health systems.
This ministerial meeting will build on existing commitments from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2018 and the CHMM meeting in May 2021, including advancing Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals towards global health security, addressing Non-Communicable Diseases, Cervical Cancer, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), as well as COVID-19 recovery and resilience.
The 2022 Commonwealth Malaria Report will be launched on the margins of the meeting, providing a snapshot of the challenges and progress being made to meet malaria targets. It will also show important insights into the trends in malaria interventions in the run-up to CHOGM and the Kigali Summit on Malaria and NTDs.
Breakout sessions will also offer a platform to discuss the latest regional issues regarding pandemic management, digital health, and sustaining health gains.
This year’s meeting is being chaired by Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Dr Christopher Tufton, and will include a keynote address from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a ministerial statement that outlines policy proposals for adoption and implementation will be issued and serve as a collective commitment for Commonwealth countries. A set of key policy recommendations will also be put forward for discussion at the upcoming CHOGM in Kigali, Rwanda, in June 2022.
Burkina Faso’s Military Junta Foils Attempted Coup Amid Ongoing Instability
Burkina Faso’s military junta announced its successful thwarting of an attempted coup this week, once again highlighting the nation’s precarious stability in the face of an ongoing Islamist insurgency.
The fragile transitional government, led by Colonel Ibrahim Traore, found itself targeted by a group of military officers and their cohorts seeking to plunge the country into chaos.
Government spokesman Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo released a statement late Wednesday, confirming the arrest of the individuals behind the plot, while asserting that those still at large were actively being pursued.
Traore, who took power a year ago after overthrowing Interim President Henri Paul Sandaogo Damiba, has been on edge due to the persistent specter of coups.
To address security concerns, Traore recently appointed new heads of the security services, including the National Intelligence Agency, following the arrest of several army officers accused of plotting against the state.
Ouedraogo reassured the public that a thorough investigation would be conducted to shed light on this latest attempted coup.
This incident in Burkina Faso underscores the troubling trend of military leaders seizing power in African nations, with Niger and Gabon experiencing similar developments in the past two years.
The West African nation remains at a critical juncture, teetering between democracy and instability as it grapples with internal and external threats.
French Ambassador Departs Niger Amid Escalating Tensions: Macron’s Pledge to Withdraw Troops Looms
Ambassador Sylvain Itte, along with six colleagues, left Niger’s capital, Niamey, on a flight bound for Paris via Chad.
This departure comes three days after French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the withdrawal of the French envoy and pledged to withdraw approximately 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger by the end of 2023.
The abrupt exit of Ambassador Itte, as reported by Agence France-Presse, occurred at around 4 a.m. on Wednesday and followed the deterioration of relations between Niger’s military leaders and their former colonial power, France.
The strained relations were primarily triggered by the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on July 26, a coup that led to the severance of military ties between the two nations.
Macron’s initial refusal to adhere to the August 28 deadline set by the junta for Ambassador Itte’s departure only served to heighten the diplomatic standoff.
The junta had cited alleged French “actions contrary to Niger’s interests” as the reason for the ambassador’s expulsion.
In the latest development, the coup leaders formally requested a timeline for the withdrawal of French troops from Niger. Macron had previously confirmed his commitment to completing the withdrawal by the end of 2023, further emphasizing the changing dynamics of the Franco-Nigerien relationship.
On Wednesday, President Macron engaged in talks with Nigerien Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou, during which he reaffirmed France’s support for President Bazoum and expressed his country’s eagerness to see a return to constitutional order in Niger.
This statement from the Elysee underscores France’s continued involvement in Niger’s internal affairs despite the recent diplomatic tensions.
As both nations navigate these turbulent waters, the future of their diplomatic and military relations remains uncertain.
The departure of Ambassador Itte is just the latest chapter in this evolving saga, and it raises questions about the implications for France’s historical ties to its former colony and its broader strategic interests in the West African region.
G-20 Grants African Union Equal Membership Status to EU
The Group of 20 nations has reached a consensus to confer permanent membership status upon the African Union.
This significant move is aimed at empowering the African continent with a stronger voice in addressing pressing global issues, including climate change and emerging-market debt.
The announcement was made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who served as the host of the G-20 summit held in New Delhi over a two-day period.
During this historic event, President Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who currently holds the presidency of the African Union, was warmly embraced by Prime Minister Modi and offered a seat at the summit table.
This strategic decision, which has been previously reported by Bloomberg News, grants the 55-member African Union the same prestigious status enjoyed by the European Union within the Group of 20.
European Council President Charles Michel expressed his delight regarding this development in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
He expressed eagerness for close cooperation between the African Union and the European Union within the framework of the G-20, solidifying the commitment to address global challenges collectively.
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