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Health Innovation Exchange: Health Innovation Exchange takes delegation to Ethiopia

Ethiopia loses around US $250 million per year with Ethiopians travelling to seek medical care outside the country. In addition, around 40% of Ethiopia’s health centres currently do not have accessible electricity and 50% have no access to clean water. In light of these challenges, Ethiopia is making great strides to improve its own healthcare system, ensure a response that meet the needs of all its citizens and delivers across sectors.

Ethiopia has taken a most innovative approach to tackle its priorities in a holistic manner. It is setting ambitious targets for a multisectoral transformation of the country for which finding new technology and innovations for health, energy and other sectors are considered critical. The approach reflects the need for integrated solutions to address the complexity and interdependence of today’s challenges and to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, including Access to Health.

The government is launching a programme next month in which 10 Ministries work jointly to define and address priorities at a district by district level. The approach will require partnership across sectors, private sector, communities and international development actors. The Minister of Health of Ethiopia, Dr Amir Aman, is committed to make a change working with UNAIDS and other international development partners to identify right innovations and integrate them into the multisectoral development approach in the country.

This partnership with UNAIDS sparked when the Minister visited the Innovation Markerplace at the launch of the UNAIDS-led Health Innovation Exchange platform in Geneva this May. The Health Innovation Exchange is a platform led and founded by UNAIDS that identifies challenges faced by health implementers and connects them with innovations that have high potential for impact. It also links with investors to scale up innovations and develop sustainable solutions. The Health Innovation Exchange expertise builds on UNAIDS decades long experience in cross-sectoral people centred approaches that address underlying health and vulnerability determinants, to address the AIDS epidemic and access to health.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Health challenged the Health Innovation Exchange to work with the country to identify a variety of potential solutions to clearly defined priorities and to facilitate connections across the government and local partners. Upon this request, UNAIDS brought together a delegation of innovators and investors in Ethiopia 3-6 September 2019 to explore opportunities for integrating innovative solutions and technologies for health into the country’s development efforts. The delegation included innovators and companies from several countries, including China, India, France, Italy, UK and Germany who brought solutions in various areas such as HIV and TB diagnostics, solar energy for healthcare settings, artificial intelligence for diagnostics and research, pharmaceutical manufacturing, needle safety in hospitals, as well as blended education models to build the Ethiopian health workforce. The solar energy solutions proposed by members of the Health Innovation Exchange delegation were welcomed as access to efficient modern energy is a critical enabler for essential maternal and newborn health services. Without energy, many lifesaving maternal health services and interventions cannot be utilized effectively which poses critical barriers to reaching the maternal mortality targets as well as other heath targets for the SDGs.

Through UNAIDS’ facilitation, we have made direct connections with key Ministers and decision makers in Ethiopia. We have been able to map out a way ahead in bringing technology with potential for impact to Ethiopia and the African market. We are committed to making a difference towards SDG3 and appreciate the energy and leadership of the Ethiopian government in driving such unprecedented change. (Mauro Pantaleo, CEO, P&P Patents and Technologies S.r.l.)

Meeting with the delegation, the Minister of Health committed to supporting the integration of a number of the proposed solutions into the country’s programmes, ensuring that policies and processes will support easy entry of the new private sector partners into the country.

I appreciate the commitment of UNAIDS Innovation and the Health Innovation Exchange to support Ethiopia on the use of innovation, especially for TB, HIV, Hep B diagnosis, use of solar panels for health facilities and incorporating artificial intelligence to fast-track access to health care services, as well as facilitating local production of medicine and medical supplies. (Dr Amir Aman, Minister of Health, Ethiopia)

This visit builds on UNAIDS' commitment to supporting countries on use of innovation to fast-track access to services for HIV, TB and health as well as its vision of local production for sustainable development.