We’re ready for ICASA: First Lady . . . launches campaigns today Health and Child Care Ambassador First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa shares a lighter moment with ICASA local secretariat and UN members after their meeting at Zimbabwe House yesterday. — Picture: John Manzongo.

Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter

HEALTH Ambassador First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa today launches the hashtag “We are Equal Campaign” and the Global Alliance to end Aids in Children by 2030 at Maria Theresa Clinic in Chiweshe as a precursor to ICASA (International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa), which is slated for Victoria Falls next month.

This becomes the second time ICASA will be held in Zimbabwe after it was held in the country in 2015.

“We are equal campaign” by African First Ladies, is expected to close the gender gap in Africa and ensure males and females have equal access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities.

The First Ladies, through their Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), are expected to attend the high-level event slated for December 2 following an invitation by Amai Mnangagwa.

Preparations are now at an advanced stage.

Speaking during a meeting yesterday with the UN family and ICASA local secretariat as part of the preparations for ICASA 2023 to assess the country’s state of preparedness to host the event, Dr Mnangagwa said it was essential for First Ladies to attend to enhance their knowledge.

“The conference will focus on various health issues and topics led by health experts and this will benefit us as First Ladies. Our duty now will be for strong advocacy, having awareness programmes in our countries talking about what we would have gathered during the high-level event. The issue of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) will be part of the discussions so that we gain knowledge. I am a looking forward to seeing my sisters in December. Problems are the same, diseases are the same, therefore, the conference is important to us as mothers of our nations,” she said.

Unicef representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale commended the country for hosting this year’s event and showered the First Lady with praises for the sterling work she is doing in promoting gender equality and preventing mother to child transmission of HIV.

“As the United Nations we commend the Government of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Health and Child Care for hosting ICASA in Zimbabwe. This is the largest conference on Aids and STDs in Africa. This is the second time Zimbabwe is hosting it and I am proud that I was here the first time that Zimbabwe hosted ICASA and the second one I am also very happy to be part of the team. This morning we had a wonderful meeting with Her Excellency the First Lady of Zimbabwe where we were looking at the preparations for ICASA. 

The First Lady is one of the champions of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV and the care of children who are living with HIV. This is preparatory work towards the First Ladies’ summit that we are going to have on the sidelines of ICASA. As the UN we are very proud of how the organizational committee has put in place all they needed to do. We appreciated the different dimensions of ICASA be it the technical session, the community session and also the engagement of civil society groups,” he said. 

Dr Oyewale said Unicef would continue working with Zimbabwe for the benefit of the country and its citizens.

“We stand ready to continue to work with the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the outcome of ICASA benefits the people of this country. We also look forward to the leadership of the Ministry of health to take forward those decisions that we are going to make as we all look towards a world that is free of Aids,” he said.

The Unicef representative had special words for Dr Mnangagwa.

“We took the opportunity to look at the work that the First Lady has been doing and is still doing for pregnant women, for children and for communities. And tomorrow we have an opportunity to work with her in Chiweshe. She has been helping pregnant women to access healthcare and complimenting that with community action. The First Lady is a champion for the work that we do in the country and for us as the UN we really like to call on all leaders to rally around efforts such as these because it takes a whole community to raise a child and it takes the whole nation to build a society,” he said.

National Aids Council chief executive officer Dr Bernard Madzima, who is part of the ICASA organising team, gave an insight into the country’s state of preparedness. 

“We are at the marathon stage for preparations of hosting ICASA 2023 in December. The first event which will happen tomorrow (today) will be in Chiweshe at Maria Theresa Clinic where we are launching the hashtag we are equal campaign and also the global alliance to end aids in children by 2030 so this event is being hosted by her Excellency the First Lady of Zimbabwe Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa together with the relevant ministries in this case it’s the ministry of Health and Child Care and Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Economic Development. 

“Basically we are in that final stretch of preparing for ICASA and we are sensitizing people, we are sensitizing Zimbabwe we are sensitizing the rest of the world that Zimbabwe is now ready to host ICASA with this event which will happen tomorrow in Chiweshe. 

The organisers had taken note of the issue of cholera and had put in place relevant prevention strategies to make sure that although people were gathering, there would not be an issue around the spreading of cholera. 

They were working with various Ministries and Government departments to make sure the event was done in a safe environment. 

First Ladies under the banner of OAFLAD would converge in Victoria Falls on December 2 for the high-level meeting on ending Aids in children. 

“Her Excellency the First Lady of Zimbabwe has invited her sisters. This event will basically be a learning platform for them in terms of their advocacy and awareness work as afar as ending HIV in children. NCDs and other relevant topical issues of health even covid-19 are definitely going to be part of the ICASA programme but the main content is really ending HIV in children. 

“Over the past more than five years Amai Mnangagwa has been very active even through OAFLAD in country and in the continent in programmes on ending HIV in children and cancer awareness. She has been an ambassador of health tackling maternal health issues and child health issues so basically this is a continuation of the work she has been doing and also I think its an opportunity for us as Zimbabwe to showcase the work that her excellency as ambassador of health and as ambassador of maternal child health,” he said.

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