By Collins Mtika, Lusaka, Zambia

Africa has 2% of the world’s vehicles but 16% of all road traffic accidents, according to experts, and yet there is persistent silence in addressing injuries on the continent due to a lack of solid data and a multisectoral strategy.

Road traffic fatalities continue to be a big issue around the world. Malawi, one of the emerging African countries with a total population of roughly 19 million, has likewise had a very high mortality rate [of about 31 crash deaths per 100,000 people in 2016] when compared to most of its neighbours in the region in recent years.

“By addressing preventable injuries, we can help alleviate poverty and move towards sustainable development,” Dr Catherine Karekezi said.

Dr Karekezi, who is the Technical Advisor and Medical Director, of NCD Alliance Kenya and Kenya Diabetes Management said this on Thursday in Lusaka, Zambia during a plenary session on “Unmasking the Silent Epidemics: NCDs, Mental Health and Injuries”.

The plenary session is part of the ongoing 3rd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA), which is taking place at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, from November 27 to 30.

Head of the Division of Disease Control and Prevention, Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Dr Abdulaziz Mohammed called for a multisectoral approach to tackling NCDs, injuries, and mental health in Africa.

“Through the continental response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear we have the same capacity to issue a coordinated response to NCDs, injuries, and mental health burdens. We must address this in the same timely and urgent way,” Dr Mohammed said.

He said there is a need to strengthen surveillance for these health burdens but noted that the biggest challenge was the lack of reliable data to drive solutions.

Masebo calls for political will in many African Countries

Zambia’s Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo echoed the multisectoral approach in fixing some of the approaches to Africa’s health dysfunctional systems.

“Political will is required for building sustainable health systems. However, leaders must take a holistic approach and work with other ministries that affect health. Sanitation, education, for example,” Masebo said.

Director for Health and Humanitarian Affairs, African Union Commission Prof Julio Rakotonirina noted that when communicable diseases are high, there is also an increase in the number of NCDs.

“That is why we need to establish flexible, multisectoral health systems to have a persistent response to disease outbreaks to help address high-burden NCDs,” Rakotonirina said.