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April 15, 2024
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UK-Africa Health Summit 2024: Minister Andrew Mitchell’s speech

At the UK-Africa Health Summit held on the 18th of March 2024, the Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell, spoke on using the UK’s International Development White Paper to prioritize global health

I am delighted to close the first day of the UK-Africa Health summit, and I’d like to thank the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) for all their hard work in organising this brilliant event.

I’m conscious that you have been listening to speeches all day – the last thing anyone needs is another government minister droning on – so I will keep my remarks fairly brief.

And I’d like to make two points:

First, the scale of the global health challenge is, as everyone here knows, immense.

If Covid taught us one thing, it is that no one is safe until everyone is safe. That’s why the UK is committed to agreeing a strong Pandemic Accord that will deliver better pandemic prevention preparedness and response for all by the end of May – and why our negotiators are working hard to that end together with yours in Geneva as we speak.

New viruses are a looming threat, but existing diseases pose a continuing threat: they are a moving target, poised to outsmart and surprise us at any time.

So we must stay ahead of the game.

Making global health a priority is the right thing to do as it saves lives. It is also the smart thing to do as it serves all our interests.

That is why:

Health is a major theme of our recent White Paper…if you haven’t yet read our White Paper, may I strongly urge you to do so. It is a proper real page turner that you won’t be able to put down…

We have announced new funding for research, which will support the rollout of the new malaria vaccines to 20 African countries and the immunization of more than 6 million children by the end of 2025.

We inaugurated the Child Nutrition Fund at the Global Food Security Summit in November, which aims to reach at least 100 million mothers with services to prevent, detect and treat child wasting.

In the coming months, we will advance global action on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

We will continue to build on the work of our flagship SRHR programme in Africa,  which has supported 11 million women and adolescent girls with access to modern methods of family planning. Since 2018, an estimated 52,000 maternal deaths have been prevented.   

This is also a huge year for Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) with the High-Level Meeting taking place in September – and I thank Dame Sally for her leadership on this…  I don’t need to tell you how serious the threat of AMR is, especially in Africa. The clock is ticking. Action is critical.

All that being said, we need to remember that medical solutions, while vital, are only as effective as the health workforce that is tasked with delivering them.

This brings me on to my second point – the importance of a strong health workforce:

Ground-breaking treatments are the lifeblood of the medical system, but our doctors, nurses, midwives, are the beating heart…

Essential to a resilient health system, and essential to making meaningful progress towards achieving universal health coverage.

For example, in Malawi, our global Health System Connect programme is supporting the government to ensure that it is equipped with the workforce it needs to respond to the changing future burden of disease.

It is in all of our interest collectively to strengthen the global health workforce and we will continue to take an ethical and robust approach to international recruitment, following the UK’s Code of Practice on International Recruitment, which is aligned with the WHO’s Global Code.

The UK values the contribution that international staff make to the UK health and social care sectors enormously. I am pleased to see the recognition that THET’s ‘Experts in Our Midst’ report is giving diaspora staff in the NHS, showcasing the important role that they play in contributing to health systems.

The White Paper further advocates for a partnership approach, in order to promote professional exchange for mutual learning between UK and partner health institutions. This is something in which I have always been very closely involved.

We have a proud history of using this model and have supported THET in their partnerships work since 2011. I am very proud of the brilliant success of that and our part since 2010 when I first became the development secretary in supporting success and progress.

The initial programme, known as the Health Partnership Scheme, delivered fantastic results, building strategic partnerships with hundreds of health institutions, catalysing the training of tens of thousands of health workers, many of whom not only went on to train others, but inspired and motivated our UK British health workers.

This is why the UK has decided to continue funding partnership work through the £15million ODA Global Health Workforce Programme. And why today, I am delighted to announce that we will be expanding the programme further, providing up to £4.45million in additional ODA funds over the next 2 years.

This will prioritise support for at least 2 additional countries. The investment will go towards supporting the development of health workforces through grants for international partnerships with local health systems.

I look forward to working with you to deliver the scientific breakthroughs we need, and the health systems everyone deserves.

I will stop there…

I want to end by thanking you for everything that you do. And by thanking THET who I have known and admired for nearly 20 years and believe that together we have done some great things which have effected read change.

A safer Africa is a safer UK – and indeed a safer world.

 

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