The symposium of the Ministry of Health opened today at the Expo grounds and would continue until March 13. This symposium is aimed evaluating the activities of the ministry over the past 20 years and reinforcing strategies for better outcome in the future. The Minister of Health, Ms. Amna Nurhusien, conducted an interview with ERINA regarding the activities of the sector. Excerpts follow:
What is the main objective of the Ministry?
The basic purpose of the Ministry is to secure nationals’ health conditions, which is closely related to the principle of ensuring social justice. Setting this as a priority agenda, the Ministry has been working to build a healthy and productive society. Expanding equitable health care services was the first step it took to commence translating its vision on the ground. Its main purpose is to make health services accessible and efficient as well as affordable to any patient wherever she/he is.
Tell us about the major challenges of the Ministry in the early days of independence?
Adequate health care service was provided in the armed struggle and its development was very commendable. The experience gained during those times had laid a concrete foundation for the Ministry to continue its activities after independence. The Ministry took over a health system operating at its lowest level. Its undeveloped infrastructure, outdated equipment, insufficient medicine supply and limited skilled human power, among others were incompetent to render services to the entire society. Thus, the journey of health care reformation commenced from scratch to reach to the current stage.
What were strategies outlined to tackle those shortcoming?
The first priority was to train manpower, focusing on nurses, lab and x-ray technicians, and so on. The opening of colleges and medical schools later on had widened higher educational opportunities to students to continue their studies in various fields inside the country. On top of this, students were sent abroad to specialize in the field of study. In this way, the number of skilled health personnel continues to grow from time to time.
Moreover, health institutions, regional referral hospitals, community-based clinics and health stations were expanded even to remote areas. The number of health institutions which was previously not more than 90, has now reached to over 330 institutions.
Furthermore, Azel Pharmaceutical Share Company was set up to ensure adequate supply of drug in the country. This company manufactures over 40 types of drugs and is providing 40% to 50% of the drug supply which in turn is playing significant role in meeting market demands.
Through the implementation of such strategies, the Ministry has made basic changes in a way that addressed timely problems, and is now looking forward to cope with the daily advancement of health care services in the world.
How do you assess Eritrea’s achievements in relation to neighboring countries?
The strategies drafted and their implementation has enabled Eritrea to reach the current stage which was impossible for other neighboring countries. We have managed to put under control diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, polio, tetanus, measles which used to claim many lives. We have won awards and acclaim from many international organizations for our accomplishments.
Tell us about the future work program of the Ministry?
Over the past three years, a 5-year strategy has been drafted and is under implementation starting this year. We have been able to register commendable progress in challenging communicable diseases, and now our efforts have been diverted to treating non-communicable diseases. We are striving to create conducive grounds to treat adult heart diseases, liver complication, certain types of cancers and the like that were previously sent abroad for treatment.
Thank you !