News: Sweden-Ethiopia health care conference highlights increased public-private cooperation for improved health care

Etenesh Abera

Addis Abeba November 7/2019 – A conference on Sweden-Ethiopia cooperation in health care was held in Addis Abeba on November 05/2029. The conference, which was opened by Torbjorn Pettersson, the Swedish Ambassador to Ethiopia, featured discussions and exchanges of views on public-private cooperation for a sustainable health care system.

Held on the heels of the arrival of a delegation led by the Swedish Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren, the conference is hailed as being part of the long history of cooperation in the health sector between Sweden and Ethiopia. In his welcoming speech Dr. Munier Kassa of the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, appreciated Sweden’s help and highlighted investment opportunities in the Ethiopian health sector. He outlined some of the incentives the Ethiopian government gives to companies in the Ethiopian pharmaceutical industry including tax exemptions for ten years, priority in hard currency provision and industrial parks with full infrastructure and relatively cheap manpower. 

Swedish Minister for Health and Social Affairs, Lena Hallengren at the conference hall

On her part Lena Hallengren said Ethiopia and Sweden have a long history of friendship, as a result of which Ethiopia was the first country to get government development aid from Sweden in 1954. The visiting delegation have had discussions with higher officials in the health sector including Amir Aman,(MD), Ethiopian minister of health, followed by a visit to Black Lion Specialized Teaching Referral Hospital, where they were briefed about the expansion of the hospital. The delegation also visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital yesterday where the Swedish involvement was highlighted.

The delegation has also held bilateral meetings with relevant stakeholders including the ministry of health where they met and discussed with minister Amir Aman.

Spotlight on Ethiopian Public Health Institute

Founded in 1940, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute is a very important stakeholder in the Ethiopian health sector, according to Dr. Ebba Abate, the director general. In his keynote address, Dr. Ebba explained the role of the institute and said that they were trying to improve the health care system despite all the problems and obstacles. Dr. Johan Carlson, Director General of the Public Health Agency of Sweden, briefed the participants about the Swedish health care system. 

At a press briefing, Lena Hallengren said the Swedish delegation will hold meetings with the African Union and different UN agencies. She also assured the delegation will usher in a new start to the already existing Sweden-Ethiopia cooperation and a knowledge exchange opportunity with different companies in the two countries.

Dr. Munir Kassa, Director of the Health System Quality Directorate at the Ministry of Health, on his part told journalists that exchange of knowledge and expertise and facilitation for Swedish companies to manufacture drugs and medical devices in Ethiopia were some of the outcomes of the conference. There is a high level of interest to invest in the Ethiopian health care sector said Dr. Munir adding “I know one German company in the process of manufacturing ultrasound machines here.”

Sweden has one of the best health care systems in the world, said Dr. Ebba adding Ethiopia’s health sector has improved relatively better compared to the other sectors in recent years. However, non-transmitted diseases are on the rise in Ethiopia and steps have to be taken to prevent them. “We have constructed lots of buildings, health care centers and hospitals, but we need the manpower to staff them and the different inputs such as drugs and devices, ” he said, adding the conference has also highlighted the potential to improve the Ethiopian pharmaceutical industry. AS

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