WHO Regional Office for Africa

WHO Regional Office for Africa

The Kingdom of Eswatini successfully hosted an inaugural virtual national health research conference from 26 to 27 August 2021. The conference was held under the theme “COVID-19, an emergency and evolving Global Public Health threat; the Role of Research”. It was organised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) and supported by the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP), The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the the World Health Organization (WHO).

The conference was opened by His Excellency the right Honourable Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini Mr Cleopas Sipho Dlamini who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture Honourable Jabulani Mabuza. Also present at the official opening was Minister of Health Senator Lizzie Nkosi, US Ambassador Her Excellency Jeanne Maloney, the WHO Country Representative Dr Cornelia Atsyor, Principal Secretaries in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology and other senior government officials.

The conference brought together international and local scientists, health professionals, policy makers, researchers, the private sector, academia and development partners. The aim of the conference was to ponder and intensify debate around the evidence underpinning the COVID-19 pandemic.  The world is now a year and half into the COVID-19 pandemic; hence it is opportune time to review and share the numerous lessons learnt and look at the challenges that still exist.  

Speakers and presenters highlighted how research and innovation has helped scientist to deliver rapid diagnostics for use in community settings, identify optimal protective equipment (PPE) to protect health care workers and the public, evidence-based infection prevention and control (IPC) measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing in health care and community settings as well as major clinical trials for the evaluation of candidate therapeutics, identifying a handful of which have had positive results on cutting deaths.

It was also emphasised that research and the evidence that research yields are critical elements for improving national health security and health equity, as well as economic development. Research and Development has delivered safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines at an unprecedented speed.

In his speech the Prime Minister mentioned that the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini has prioritised research and is one of the strategic directions in the post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan and the National Development Plan. The Prime Minister also emphasised that the world is constantly evolving hence the need to provide information about global trends and most importantly, local factors is imperative. This allows for interventions, approaches and strategies that are responsive to the current challenges.

“The past two years have cemented and emphasized the importance of research, particularly in the health sector. Events such as this conference propel collaborations and potential linkages; allowing for knowledge dissemination and knowledge fluidity,” he said.

The Prime Minister also noted that the COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to fast track policy reforms that will enable Science, Technology and Innovation to be prioritized and used to attain sustainability across all sectors. He noted that the world is now moving towards a knowledge-based economy and research is a crucial component to effectively champion development. He emphasized that as the world ventures into new territory, it’s time to act and think anew; and most importantly rise to the occasion.

 “Worth mentioning is the role of research in mitigating the impact of the virus and the vaccines developed to control the virus. The role and importance of research can, therefore, not be understated. Research provides the solutions needed to combat the challenges faced by health care systems worldwide, he said.

The WHO Country Representative Dr Atsyor said that high-quality research is essential for “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. She noted that there have been lessons at every stage of the response to the pandemic. She added that research, evidence, and information are the foundation for sound health policies.

Furthermore, ICAP Wafaa El Sadr, applauded the government of Eswatini recognizing the importance capacity building on human and health research through in service and preservice training.  The Ministry of Health strongly supported the Health Research Training Program (HRTP) where over a period of 5 years, 40 fellows were enrolled into a one-year research mentorship program that provided practical research skills.

Different researchers made presentations during the two-day conference, sharing lessons learnt, best practices and challenges observed during the response to the pandemic. During the closing of the conference, Minister of Health who was represented by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Simon Zwane expressed appreciation to the scholars and scientists who shared their knowledge with guests. She made emphasis that the vast knowledge shared at the conference will go a long way in shaping policy and helping the country to respond better to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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© Press Release 2021

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