Eritrea’s Progress in the Health Sector through the eyes of Dr. Martins Obeverdjo

Eritrea’s Progress in the Health Sector through the eyes of Dr. Martins Obeverdjo
Eritrea’s Progress in the Health Sector through the eyes of Dr. Martins Obeverdjo

Africa-Press – Eritrea. Our guest today is Dr. Martins Obeverdjo, WHO country representative who has just completed his tour of duty in Eritrea.

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Thank you for your time, Dr. Martins. How do you feel about your stay in Eritrea during your tour of duty?

Thank you for having me. I have been in Eritrea for four years and eight months now. I must say that it’s been a very beautiful feeling. I reflect on the very high political commitment, the community support and ownership. The responsibility and discipline of the health workforce and the kindness of Eritrean people will stick with me.

Would you tell us about WHO’s functions in Eritrea?

WHO is a member state organization which works to support national priorities. In the last four years and eight months, we have worked under the leadership of the government and the Ministry of Health and the collaboration of the zone authorities to support the implementation of national policies and strategic priorities as allowed by the government of the State of Eritrea. I’m happy to state here that the collaboration and the ownership by the people and the communities have been very impressive. They have demonstrated true support for health, which isn’t surprising at all. Eritrea has records of very significant achievements that WHO is proud of. And I would like to say that Eritrea should keep it up marching forward to ensure the achievement.

Would you please tell us about some of the successes that you have personally witnessed?

There are records out there from 2019 that show Eritrea’s achievements on the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). It has not gone to sleep but it rather has stepped on top of the game and several notable achievements. If you look at HIV/AIDS, it has almost reached the point of elimination. It’s an area I’m personally proud of for Eritrea. And looking at the extensive coverage, Eritrea has over 97 nationwide coverage. This is also notable considering the very hard-to-reach terrains of Eritrea. But with the commitment of the community and the leadership provided, I think Eritrea has done very well. In other areas, looking at the improvement in the quality of health services, Eritrea has recorded notable successes. Band WHO is very happy.

Can you tell us a bit more about NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) screening?

Yes, emergency care is an area in which Eritrea has made a notable achievement. But before talking about NCDs, I would love to mention that Eritrea has achieved a phenomenal increase in life expectancy, by 65% in 2019. There are very few countries that have achieved such notable results. So I would like to say congratulations to the State of Eritrea. Eritrea is now living at a longer, better, and improved health status. Given what the government is putting in place with strategic plans and policies, accelerated action will be taken to address NCDs.

What would you say is the role Eritrea can play in sharing its best practices?

Eritrea has achieved quite a lot as I said. Looking at the reviews and evidence, we have supported the government. Eritrea has recorded notable success in service coverage; it has improved in terms of access to health facilities. There has been an increase in the establishment of the health infrastructure across different parts of the country. And it is not just the coverage but the equitable distribution of services. It’s a good lesson that other countries can learn from. Given the modest resources, the country has allocated a lot of its domestic resources, of course with community support, to achieve a lot of success in different forms. As I mentioned earlier, Eritrea is on the verge of eliminating HIV/ AIDS, malaria, and, hopefully, TB soon. And I think WHO will be very happy to be a partner to the government to ensure that we achieve this notable strategic goal.

In terms of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), how well is Eritrea doing?

We have a composite assessment of indicators that Eritrea has recorded a very notable improvement. Secondly, Eritrea has relevant policy strategic plans in place and it’s vigorously implementing these plans. If you look at innovations that Eritrea has implemented, the barefoot doctors are an eloquent testimony of Eritrea’s commitment to consolidating primary health care services. Eritrea has also recorded improvement in the maternal and child health care service, one that you would just describe as a record success considering the operational environment that Eritrea currently experiences. So given the current commitment and strong political ownership of the community for their health, I am very confident that Eritrea will be one of those countries that will succeed in achieving Universal Health Coverage targets in the SDGs priorities.

And how well is Eritrea doing on the SDGs?

It’s doing very well in terms of implementing the targets. There’s commitment notably at the central, zone and subzone levels. You recall that Eritrea commenced implementations of the decentralization of health services with the establishment of 58 functional subzone structures. The zones are playing their roles. Without any exception, Eritrea has annually implemented reviews for four years, when I have been here, to come up with workable solutions for imagined problems. I am confident that with this approach, Eritrea will record success in the end.

How do you feel about the cooperation offered to you by the ministries?

WHO and I have enjoyed a phenomenal support from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment in Eritrea. I’ve enjoyed support from high government officials from the Ministry of Health. I have visited all of the zones in the country. And some of the things that I have observed are the passion and commitment to provide health services to the population. The community participation in helping is unique and good practice that other countries can learn from Eritrea. Also, the consolidation of primary health care is a great boost for the modernization of the health services. So Eritrea should keep consolidating this, its particular commitment to the community resilience and primary health care structures and investment which the government has availed.

Any final remarks, Dr. Martins?

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I would like to thank the national authorities for the strong political commitment. Eritrea is one of the first countries that kicked out polio, which is a very notable achievement and a manifestation of commitment at the highest and grassroots levels. Secondly, I have enjoyed the simplicity of the system working towards solving problems and the kindness of the Eritrean people. The Eritrean people are simple, honest and disciplined. I want to say that I have enjoyed my tour of duty and WHO looks forward to partnering with the leadership of the government to achieve the targets. The ministries were phenomenal and, of course, the health workers as well. They have proved their commitment.

Source: Eritrea Ministry Of Information

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