A healthy population is a necessary catalyst for economic and social development. As Southern Africa improves Industrial Capacity and Economy, the health of its citizens remains paramount in ensuring a sustainable future.
Recognising this level of importance, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is committed to the health of the region’s citizens. It aims to attain an acceptable standard of health for all citizens and to reach specific targets within the objective of "Health for All" by 2020.
This goal follows from the SADC Health Programme, developed in 1997 in line with global and regional health declarations and targets. Three key policy documents have been developed to underpin the implementation of the Programme, and implemented by the Social and Human Development, and Special Programmes Directorate as follows:
- The Health Policy Framework;
- The SADC Protocol on Health; and
- The Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan.
The SADC Health Policy plans to raise the regional standard of health for all citizens to an acceptable level by promoting, coordinating, and supporting efforts of Member States to improve access to high-impact health interventions. This framework was developed by the SADC Health Ministers and approved by the SADC Council of Ministers in September 2000. It proposes policies, strategies, and priorities in the following areas:
- Health research and surveillance;
- Health information systems;
- Health promotion and education;
- HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases;
- Communicable and Non-communicable Disease control;
- Reproductive health;
- Health human resources development;
- Nutrition and food safety; and
- Violence and substance abuse.
The Protocol on Health was approved by the SADC Heads of State in August 1999 and entered into force in August 2004. Acknowledging that a healthy population is a prerequisite for sustainable human development and increased Productivity, the Protocol on Health promotes cooperation among Member States on key health issues. It recognises that this cooperation is essential for the control of Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases and for addressing common health concerns, including emergency health services, Disaster Management, and bulk purchasing of Essential Drugs.
The Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan integrates health as a priority within the context of Social and Human Development, Poverty and Food Security. In particular, the current HIV and AIDS pandemic is woven into the entire plan as an issue that influences most factors of development in the region. For this reason, HIV and AIDS is also addressed as a stand-alone Cross-Cutting Issue.
High morbidity and mortality rates, low nutrition status, poor healthcare infrastructure and services, poor living conditions, and the HIV and AIDS pandemic present major challenges to development in Southern Africa. Increasing rates of Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases are compounding the problem. In addition, an inadequate understanding of the Gender Dimension and inadequate resources for improving health present further challenges.
The following sections provide more detail on some of the key challenges and solutions being proposed and implemented to combat these issues: