Egypt Pulse

Egypt reaches out to AU with medical aid

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Article Summary
As Cairo shoulders the chairmanship of the African Union for 2019, Egypt has launched two major medical initiatives serving African refugees and residents of other AU states.

CAIRO, Egypt — Egyptian medical convoys will treat Sudanese patients with Hepatitis C in the coming weeks under an agreement with Sudan's Health Ministry.

The Egyptian government started preparations in mid-March to carry out multiple health initiatives targeting African patients and a delegation from the Ministry of Health and Population has already visited Chad. The efforts coincide with Egypt taking over the chairmanship of the African Union Feb. 10.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made a number of recommendations at the March 17 closing session of the Arab African Youth Platform, held in Aswan in southern Egypt. They included an Egyptian initiative to eliminate Hepatitis C among one million Africans and a new phase, focusing on refugees living in Egypt, of its 100 Million Healthy Lives Campaign, created to end Hepatitis C and address other conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity among Egyptians.

In a joint April 9 statement, the UNHCR and WHO praised the endeavor. The 280,000 refugees registered with the UNHCR in Egypt include many refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan and others from Arab countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

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Speaking to Al-Monitor, a source at Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population explained, “As part of the initiative to eliminate Hepatitis C among one million Africans, an e-system is currently being designed to register data on Africans infected with Hepatitis C to follow up on their health and stages of treatment.” He went on, “Another e-system is being prepared for the registration of refugees residing in Egypt as part of the 100 Million Healthy Lives Campaign.”

The source indicated that the ministry is coordinating with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to select the African countries where the initiative will start, develop a plan and timeline in these countries and communicate with their embassies to Cairo to gather information on the patients in need of treatment.

Egypt's campaign to treat all Egyptian patients with Hepatitis C began in In 2014 and by October 2016 had succeeded in curing all the patients on its lists.

At the WHO headquarters in Switzerland March 14, Health Minister Hala Zayed and WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus discussed applying the lessons of Egypt's successful Hepatitis C experiment to other African countries. The two sides agreed that the WHO will provide technical assistance and training while Egypt sends medical teams and Hepatitis C medications.

Zayed expressed Egypt’s willingness to also help treat malaria patients in a number of countries in cooperation with the WHO. Some analysts on African affairs believe that such an initiative will support Egyptian efforts to promote ties with other African countries.

Mona Omar, assistant to the former foreign minister for African affairs, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “Such health initiatives support the role Egypt plays in Africa and promote its influence. All of these factors consist of concerted efforts to bring the Egyptian people closer to the rest of the African people as they involve the fundamentals of sustainable development,” she added.

She indicated that Egypt has always supported other African countries with many medical convoys, saving their citizens from the burden of paying for their treatment and travel.

On March 7, Al-Azhar's committee for African affairs discussed ways to increase its relief and medical convoys in African countries. The institution has sent 11 convoys to Niger, Somalia, Sudan. Nigeria, Chad, Central Africa and Burkina Faso since 2012.

According to Alaa Ramadan, vice president for community service and environmental development at Alexandria University, this year, the university will send medical convoys to provide treatment for eye conditions in a number of African countries, including Guinea, Tanzania and Chad.

Amani Al-Taweel, director of the African program at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor that the implementation of Egypt’s health initiatives in African countries has a significant impact on bilateral relations with these countries. She said, “It is an important topic that points to Egypt’s genuine care for matters concerning African citizens. Yet I believe that such directives go beyond the chairmanship of the AU, as they are linked to Egypt’s vision to deepen ties with African countries.”

Taweel explained, “We are on the right track, but direct investments are required and development programs need to be implemented. Further efforts are required, be they by NGOs or as joint endeavors by the Egyptian and other African parliaments.”

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Found in: disease, africa, medicine, medical assistance, health care, egyptian foreign policy, african union

Ahmed Gomaa is an Egyptian journalist currently working as an editor for political affairs at Al-Musawar magazine and as an editor for Masrawy. On Twitter: @AhmedGomaa252

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