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Progressing Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology in the Africa Region at the Inaugural Regional Rehabilitation Conference

The inaugural Regional Rehabilitation Meeting for Africa was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from November 21st to November 23rd, 2023. Hosted by the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, the meeting brought together leaders from ministries of health and healthcare professionals from nineteen African nations. Organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa regional office, with the support of the WHO Ethiopia Country Office, the event aimed to provide an overview of the current status of rehabilitation and assistive technology (AT) within health systems in Africa, and to identify concrete actions to advance the rehabilitation and AT agenda in the Africa Region.

Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in enhancing everyday functioning and reducing disability by providing rehabilitation services and assistive products that improve independence and well-being. Access to rehabilitation and assistive products is vital for achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), especially considering the growing need for rehabilitation in the Africa Region due to factors such as the increasing incidence of injuries, stroke, the survival of people living with the consequences of injuries, and the aging population.

Despite the importance of rehabilitation services, access remains inadequate in the African region. The regional rehabilitation meeting provided a platform for representatives from various countries, international organizations, and development partners to discuss and strengthen rehabilitation and assistive technology efforts in Africa. The meeting covered topics such as strategic planning, workforce development, integration into health information systems, governance, financing arrangements, measurement of rehabilitation outcomes, and the inclusion of rehabilitation in health benefit packages.

Presentations from different countries highlighted country-specific experiences and lessons learned, while panel discussions explored the roles of key stakeholders in implementing rehabilitation strategic plans. Small group discussions allowed participants to identify priorities, needs, and challenges for strengthening rehabilitation in African countries. The meeting also emphasized the importance of harmonizing rehabilitation and AT strengthening, workforce development, and integration into primary healthcare systems.

Rehabilitation in emergency preparedness and response was another critical area of discussion, with each sub-region identifying country action priorities. The meeting concluded with reflections on the discussions held and the need for continued collaboration, sharing of best practices, and resource mobilization to strengthen rehabilitation and AT services in Africa.

The regional rehabilitation meeting held in Addis Ababa was a great opportunity for stakeholders involved in rehabilitation and assistive technology to exchange knowledge, network, and collaborate. The meeting outcomes will contribute significantly to the advancement of rehabilitation services and the integration of assistive technology throughout the African region.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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