The European Union (EU) has signed a letter of intent outlining a €24.5 million EU contribution to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support the local manufacturing of, and access to, vaccines, medicines and health technologies in sub-Saharan Africa.
The agreement was signed in Geneva on 23 March, by Jutta Urpilainen, the EU’s Commissioner for International Partnerships, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The new initiative is intended to enable African countries and partners such as the African Union (AU) to expand their local manufacturing capacity for medical products and health technologies, ‘by advancing regulatory convergence across the continent, supporting technology transfer and capacity building for local production, and improving the consolidation of the demand and strategic purchasing of such products’.
During the meeting, EU and WHO officials also reviewed their current efforts to improve global health architecture, including its preparation for a global accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
The pandemic highlights the need for local medical production in poorer countries
“One of the most obvious lessons of the pandemic is the urgent need to increase local production of vaccines, especially in low and middle-income countries,” Dr Ghebreyesus said. “WHO is grateful to the EU for this new project that will empower African countries and partners to ensure equitable access to safe, effective, quality-assured and affordable essential medicines and other health products for their populations.”
“WHO is grateful to the EU for its strong and lasting commitment to Universal Health Coverage. Together we provide critical support in 115 countries to ensure that all people, especially the most vulnerable, have access to quality, affordable health services when and where they need them,” he added.
Under the 2019-2022 EU - WHO Partnership for health systems strengthening, the EU had already allocated US$168 million to WHO to assist countries in designing and implementing interventions to strengthen national health systems, tackle the threat of Covid-19 and promote an inclusive post-pandemic recovery. The EU contributes around $466 million to WHO per year.
WHO previously warned that disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic could potentially derail ongoing efforts to fight other diseases such as malaria, many of which are common in southern Africa.