HOUSE of Chiefs vice chairperson chieftainess Mwenda says traditional leaders in the country uphold that health and wellbeing are a fundamental right for every individual, in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Chiefs’ Indaba on health was held from August 2 – 3, 2018 at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka under the theme ‘Chiefs providing leadership for health and wellness, leaving no one behind’.
The overall objective of the indaba was to engage chiefs from across the ten provinces of Zambia, in recognition of their role and influence they command as rulers in their respective chiefdoms, to solicit their support in promoting good health and wellbeing for Zambians.
The indaba focused on the legacy goals of the Ministry of Health as outlined in the National Health Strategic Plan 2017-2021, in keeping with the Seventh National Development Plan and the Vision 2030, whose aspirations are for Zambia to become a prosperous, middle-income country by the year 2030.
There were 235 chiefs in attendance during the indaba among over 500 participants, who included government officials at various levels, cooperating partners, civil society and non-governmental organisations.
Speaking during the closing ceremony of the 2018 National Health Indaba for chiefs, chieftainess Mwenda, who was also chairperson, said traditional leaders had agreed to partner with the Ministry of Health to contribute to its efforts in ensuring good health for all.
“Reflecting on the interactive discussions and on the oral presentations, we, their royal highnesses, state our consensus as follows: Uphold that health and well-being are a fundamental right for every individual, in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals, recognise the need for a healthy population as being critical for enhanced productivity and socioeconomic development and acknowledge the high burden of disease resulting from malaria, HIV and AIDS, maternal mortality, child morbidity and mortality, under-nutrition and malnutrition and non-communicable diseases, among others,” chieftainess Mwenda said.
“Recognising the mandate of the Ministry of Health to spearhead the improvement of the health of the Zambian people, which includes promoting health and preventing disease, applauding government’s efforts through the Ministry of Health in partnership with various stakeholders aimed at attaining universal health coverage through health systems strengthening to support effective and efficient service delivery and applauding government’s aspirations through the Ministry of Health for setting legacy goals aimed at eliminating malaria, achieving epidemic control of HIV, reducing maternal and child mortality, improving nutrition, reducing non-communicable diseases and attaining access to health insurance for all citizens.”
Chieftainess Mwenda said chiefs also affirmed that children, adolescent girls and young women should be a priority focus for health interventions because of their higher vulnerability.
She said traditional leaders recognised that the achievement of the Ministry of Health’s legacy goals required a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach, with emphasis on community engagement.
“Re-affirming our role as traditional rulers in our respective chiefdoms in providing leadership in matters that relate to health and well-being, resolve to work with our communities to entrench positive health behaviours, such as early antenatal booking, delivery at health facilities, consistent use of long lasting insecticide treated nets, attendance to under-five clinics, child immunisations, eating healthy foods, engaging in physical exercise and maintaining good personal hygiene, among others, and resolve to discourage negative behaviours and harmful practices such as home deliveries, child marriages, sexual cleansing, misuse of long lasting insecticide treated nets, drug abuse, harmful use of tobacco and alcohol, open defecation, among others.”
Chieftainess Mwenda said chiefs agreed to participate in efforts aimed at promoting health and preventing disease at district, provincial and national levels.
She said they would commit to sharing best practices and encourage peer-learning exchanges among chiefdoms in promoting health and preventing disease.
Chieftainess Mwenda urged the government through the Ministry of Health and cooperating partners to provide opportunities to convene fora aimed at fostering the engagement of chiefs in the promotion of health and the prevention of disease.
She also urged government and cooperating partners to adequately invest in the health sector in order to realise the goals set out in the National Health Strategic Plan.