Writer Hassan Ghazaly (L) and IGAD official (R) during interview - Egypt Today Writer Hassan Ghazaly (L) and IGAD official (R) during interview - Egypt Today

IGAD from the Inside

Thu, Mar. 14, 2019
CAIRO – 14 March 2019: The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is one of the regional economic communities in Africa. Dr. Girum Hailu Maheteme (MD, MPH), 51, is a Senior Advisor who spoke about the authority, its goals and services to the continent.

Below is the interview



Q: Can you brief us about what is IGAD?

A: IGAD stands for Intergovernmental Authority on Development; it’s one of the regional economic communities in Africa. IGAD consists of a group of eight States: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Soudan, South Soudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. The eight countries work in the regional bloc in Africa, under the policies and strategies of the African Union.

It started operating in 1986, of course supported by the willingness and commitment of heads of state to combat desertification and drought at the time, and then it was revitalized in 1996 to maintain security because of the conflict affecting the region. In 2005, we’ve established the Health and Social Development Program.



Q: What is the role of Peace and Security in IGAD and if you can elaborate with examples?

A: Mainly when any conflict arises between two countries, first the member States agree on mandating IGAD and then IGAD moves to the region of conflict and try to mediate and reconcile.

There are conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. In the past, IGAD mediated the conflicts in these regions. Huge resources and money were allocated to achieve mediation and reconciliation and to discuss the worries and problems devastating the region which is not in favor of the people.


Q: In your opinion, what’s the second most important issue regarding Peace and Security after the South Sudan issue?

A: Actually, the reconciliation between the South Sudanese was very tough and took a long time. However, IGAD was persistent and played an unwavering role to achieve reconciliation. Leaders were committed for many years to achieving peace. Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed has made it clear that this issue must come to an end, and that all member states should participate in the reconciliation process and be involved, not only the affected regions. Therefore, the peace process was successful.


Q: How is the Health and Social Development the strongest program?

A: We’ve achieved remarkable results in the areas of health, education through the Regional Program for Education and science and technology. The Health and Social Development Program is a very broad Program which includes, apart from health, education and migration issues. I am also proud to say that the Regional Program of Migration was praised by the partners of the member states. We are committed in IGAD to solving the root cause of migration in the IGAD region. Therefore, IGAD elaborated a Regional Migration Policy Framework. It should be noted that IGAD member states collaborated to tackle the migration problem by sending experts from different ministries of State (such as ministries of health, education and defense) to discuss possible means of solving the problem. This strategy was implemented for the first time in 2014.

Q: Are the IGAD’s activities mainly conducted in Ethiopia or in different regions of Africa?

A: Yes, the headquarters is in Djibouti and there are offices in Ethiopia. We have offices in Nairobi and in Kampala. The first health program was launched for the prevention of HIV -Regional partnership Program for HIV/AIDS- and was established in Kampala office. Later the program expanded to include other member states via cross border area because it is a hot spot filled with people infected with HIV because of the presence of a lot of drivers, travelers and people moving from one border to another for trade exchange. You know a lot is happening at the cross border, for instance in Moyale…

Q: Where is Moyale?

A: Moyale is a town in the south part of Ethiopia -border town between Ethiopia and Kenya. It’s a very strategic region where many people are moving from one country to another. In this region, people are very friendly; they speak the same language and use the same currency.

Q: Does IGAD conduct projects at the borders of its member states?

A: Yes, IGAD conducts national programs in member states, in huge countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya. It’s hard to reach border regions as they don’t have access to health or education and also because these areas have pastoralists -nomadic people moving from one country to another because of the weather- who live in open borders and move from one region to another in search of water.
Therefore, IGAD strives to address the special needs of this population and of the people living at the cross border because they don’t have access to basic services such as health, education or water. When the country and its population are huge, there is no capacity to provide the basic services in all regions and people residing at the cross borders are left out. The heads of state and Government agreed that fighting for resources, basic services, for water creates many conflicts.

Q: We finished the first two pillars Peace and Security, and the Health and Social Development Program where IGAD conducted a lot of projects; can you mention some of them and how did they start?

A: For instance, responding to the needs for health facilities, we’ve established health centers at the cross borders.
We’ve first selected 112 hot spots for health facilities at the borders so the two countries can have access to the facilities. IGAD strives to develop guidelines, establish health facilities and train health workers. I was actually involved in the training of people from the cross-border regions for the last 3 years.

Q: How many centers or facilities IGAD has successfully implemented?

A: From 112 identified sites, health facilities and centers were established in 58 sites within the IGAD region.

Q: Can you tell us about IGAD’s Health Agenda?

A: I am proud to say that we were successfully able to showcase abstracts of health research papers in the first IGAD Health Conference held in Addis Ababa in 2014. We were also able to convince IGAD’s partners of the remarkable goals achieved so far.

Q: Can you tell us about IGAD’s partners?

A: The IGAD has several partners such as the World Bank, Canada, Italy and Switzerland. There is a forum called IGAD’s partners forum and the following States are members: China, Scandinavian countries, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, as well as the African Development Bank and UNICEF. All the partners and members support IGAD’s work especially in the area of health.

Q: What are the most important programs in the health area?

A: I'd like to mention an important program called Regional Medicine regulation and harmonization to fight illicit medicine circulation and improve availability of safe, effective and quality-assured medicines. Unsafe and poor-quality medicines can easily circulate through borders and reach the main capital. Therefore, the point of entry should be checked, and laboratories should test the medicine entering the State through trade to reduce the black-market trade. It is a huge problem in Ethiopia that can cause serious health complications and, in some cases, can be fatal, which is why IGAD’s member states collaborated to establish a regional medicine regulation and harmonization mechanism to control this problem.

Q: Could you tell us about IGAD’s new initiatives?

A: IGAD’s region is highly affected by breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer. IGAD was therefore mandated to establish a Regional Cancer Center of Excellence located in Addis Ababa that will serve the whole region.


Q: When will this project be launched?

A: We are still in the early stages of establishment. We have done a comprehensive business plan, including the contributions of the member states, the source of resources and the type of service that will be offered. All the aspects of the project were studied in University of Alberta by experts and they gave us the final report.

Q: A center of excellence is a big project that needs a strong source of fund, so who will be the main funding agents of this project?

A: University of Alberta in Canada is funding the project study and according to the study, the establishment of the center will cost $450 million. We are currently mobilizing resources, through our partners, member states and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Cancer medication is very costly, that’s why the pharmaceutical companies agreed on providing 80 percent of the cost of medication for the next 10 years. It should also be noted that Saudi Arabia has contributed $500,000.


Q: What’s the role of IGAD’s member states in implementing the African Union decisions?

A: For so many years, it has been said that the AU and its organs are not powerful or resourceful enough to implement the decisions taken at the meetings. However, this changed through the new reform policies of the AU under H.E. Paul kagame, president of Rwanda, who urged the head states and the member states to implement the decisions of the AU and to be action oriented.
For instance, IGAD played an important role in the peace and security issues in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea as mentioned earlier. After the agreement of heads of state, IGAD would interfere to mediate, to reconcile the outstanding differences and to cease fire. After reconciliation, IGAD started implementing health and education programs in the region.
The new reform policies of the AU urge member states to tackle the problems and not to wait for foreign support from partners and donors by allocating funds (0.2 percent) from ministries of finance of the AU member states.

Q: As you know President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, assumed the presidency of the AU, what are your expectations as a representative of IGAD- one of the strongest pillars of the AU - from Egypt?

A: I expect from President Sisi and the executives of the AU, as well as the regional economic communities, to collaborate and consult with each other to implement the AU decisions on the ground for the benefit of the people of the continent. If one leader begins to take steps forward, other leaders will follow him, and a new leadership will be born.

Q: Egypt has a vast experience in fighting viral hepatitis; can you tell us your opinion on the matter?

A: Africa is affected by many diseases, but we are currently challenged by three main diseases that represent a huge burden: communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases (such as Cancer) and injuries due to road traffic accidents.
We must recognize the remarkable experience of Egypt and the relentless efforts of the government to fight viral hepatitis, including the great efforts of the African Liver Patients Association (ALPA). The Egyptian experience should be transferred to the other African countries.
For example, in IGAD’s region, we have cases of viral hepatitis B and C, not as many as in Egypt, but physicians are struggling to control this disease.
To implement the Egyptian experience in other African countries, in my opinion, as a representative of IGAD, we need to work together and consult with each other (IGAD and ALPA) to find resources to implement institutional capacity development projects, as well as finding means of partnerships in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, as Pharco.


Hassan Ghazaly is the founder and general coordinator of the African Youth Bureau – Ministry of Youth and Sports- and vice president of Pan African Youth Union.

 
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