The beginning of May was a busy time for us at the Africa office, with the joint Health Community of East, Central and Southern Africa (ECSA-HC), College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Central and Southern Africa (COECSA), IAPB stakeholders’ workshop being held in Nairobi on May 9. This was followed by our own Annual Review and Planning Meeting, also in Nairobi from 10-12 May.
At the workshop, “a giant step forward” (as described by ECSA-HC) for the Human Resources for Eye Health (HReH) agenda in the region was made, supported by both member states and member agencies. This was a resolution finalized by nine African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Lesotho and Swaziland), plus experts and technical advisors.
The points of the resolution were:
- Put in place measures to address the eye health workforce gap in terms of the quantity and quality, skill mix and equitable distribution
- Define clearly the scope of practice of all eye health cadres; ensure these are reflected in the accredited training curricula and are recognized by the Ministry of Health
- Support the generation and use of quality eye health data and integrate eye health indicators into existing national Health Management Information Systems (HMIS)
- Integrate Human Resource for eye Health (HReH) into the overall Human Resources for Health (HRH) planning, development, recruitment, deployment and remuneration
- ECSA-HC Secretariat: To support and facilitate the harmonization of training and the regulation of practice of eye health professionals.
The resolution is to be presented to the Ministers of Health at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. It was also agreed to develop Terms of References (ToRs) for an expert Standing Committee on eye health in the sub-region.
The critical shortage of health workers is recognised as one of the most fundamental constraints to achieving progress on health and achieving wider development goals. In 2014, IAPB Africa launched the HReH Strategic Plan (2014-2023) that suggests how member agencies can work individually and collaboratively to address the eye health work force crisis in Africa. This assumes more importance as of the 57 countries considered to be in crisis, 36 of them are in Africa.
At these meetings, a review of this strategy was done:
- Three capacity building workshops have been done to advocate for inclusion of eye health workforce in integrated national health workforce plans
- This has now been achieved in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Togo, Benin, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Ethiopia with success just round the corner in Senegal, Mali, Ghana and Uganda
- Increased government funding for training more eye health professionals in Kenya, Malawi, Burkina and Zambia, providing ‘proof of concept’ and laying a sustainable foundation for closing the eye health workforce gap.
The third and final event was our own Annual Review and Planning Meeting, which brought together an impressive 20 countries, eye health experts and member agencies.
These two days were spent on discussions and reviewing activities targeting advocacy, knowledge and partnership. It was also spent on looking at plans for the next cycle of activity – 2018-2020 – as we renew our partnership with WHO, induct a new chair (Aaron) and two new co-chairs, and mobilise resources to address the gap left by the end of the successful secondment package from Sightsavers.