Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. Allow me first to give thanks to Almighty God whose unflagging mercy and kindness have enabled us to meet in Bujumbura for the Sixth Scientific Conference on Health in the East African Community.
  1. Beyond being an honour for our country, the organization of the 6th East African Health and Scientific Conference, as well as the International Health Exhibition and Trade fair is highly significant for Burundi. Indeed, holding this session in Bujumbura is a strong indication that peace and stability are a reality in our country, contrary to the lies conveyed by some malicious gossips.
  2. I am all the more honoured that this Conference brought together brothers and sisters from a Community whose members share a common destiny. I have no doubt that most of the participants will find in Bujumbura some well-known and very familiar places. Welcome, feel at home.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. At a time when concepts such as integration and globalization are at the heart of discussions in various platforms, I find bitterly that vulnerable and disadvantaged people have more difficult access to care, fall sicker and die younger than people with a more privileged social status throughout the world. These injustices are hard to understand when we live more than ever, in an era of opulence and knowledge and when we are more sensitive to health problems than before.
  1. Today, the correlation between health and development is a proven fact. Consequently, the international community in general and the East African Community member states in particular should work together both in theory and in practice to increase efforts to protect the population and the ecosystem as a whole.
  1. Indeed, health is now more than ever at the heart of the fight against poverty and, in particular, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
  1. Fragile and inequitable health systems – especially when they are faced with a shortage of human resources, or when they lack sustainable financial means – represent a major obstacle to the extension of programs to combat diseases. Those programs which are needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals are: reducing maternal and child mortality, combating HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and making essential medicines available and affordable in developing countries.
  1. As you will learn from different presentations, and exchanges of information and experiences with stakeholders in Burundi, our country certainly has lessons to learn, but also some success stories to share. On the one hand, I am convinced that countries should absolutely place health at the heart of their economic and development policies, and on the other hand, I am confident that social, political and economic initiatives, if they make health systems a priority, can improve their functioning.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. The main theme of this 6th Conference is: “Preparedness for and control of disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics, in the context of climate change, globalization, and gaps in health systems.”
  1. In these times when borders are opening up, implying not only a greater circulation of goods, people and ideas, science is an indispensable competitive advantage, while research for development brings about solidarity and innovation.
  1. It is for this reason that since 2006, the Member States of the East African Community have decided to meet each year around a regional scientific event to discuss the results of research between academics, researchers, private actors and public authorities on the one hand; and on the other hand to promote research among young students, since it is among the latter that tomorrow’s innovators will come from.
  2. The increasing complexity of health issues requires partnerships, collaboration of specialties and skills. It is in this same spirit of exchange of knowledge around development experiences, that the Treaty establishing the East African Community, in Article 118, stipulates that, with respect to cooperation in health activities, the Partner States undertake to:
  • Co-operate in promoting research and the development of traditional, alternate or herbal medicines;
  • Co-operate in the development of specialized health training, health research, reproductive health, the pharmaceutical products and preventive medicine.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. In recent decades, new diseases have emerged; diseases considered to be under control in the recent past have re-emerged, while others known to be gentle re-emerge today in a much more serious form.
  1. The exponential mobility of people helped by transport development, creates conditions conducive to the spread of these pathologies and their geographical spread is now progressing at a more sustained pace than in the past. These diseases originate from various causes: zoonotic, food, chemical or radio-nuclear materials, to name only a few.
  1. Today, climate change increases food insecurity; it makes malnutrition worse, accentuates the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria in our sub-region in particular.
  1. The health situation in our Community therefore calls for a medium- and long-term program to combat the vectors of these diseases and to educate the public about the change of behaviour in order to have a sound health and an increased awareness for the protection of the environment.
  1. Furthermore, since the annual number of deaths due to environmental pollution is now around 13 million worldwide, I believe that the combination of efforts to reduce the number of deaths due to pollution is imperative. This requires a new global dynamic to promote better management of environmental and climate risks to human health.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. At the end of this important meeting in Bujumbura, we should all together commit ourselves to ensuring that people, their livelihoods, their well-being and, in particular, their health are the focus of our action against climate change.
  1. I invite the health and environment sectors within the Member States of the East African Community, to exchange their experiences, technical expertise and best practices to improve health and protect the environment.
  1. Researchers from the East African Community member states must set aside their tendency to compete among themselves, and instead embrace a synergetic dynamic. This is all the more relevant at a time when the world is tending to become a global village, with increasing cross-cutting concerns.
  1. I also strongly appeal to economic operators in general, and manufacturers in particular to become more aware of health issues, especially inasmuch as their actions often have a negative impact on animal and environmental health.

 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. You may not agree with me, but I am adamant that human beings and other creatures do not owe their life and survival to doctors, healers or any health related science. We all owe our lives and survival to God. Yes we do.
  1. Yet, we should consider doctors, healers and medical researchers as God’s assistants who, in return should not take this responsibility for granted. Instead, they should always implore God’s Guidance and Inspiration.
  1. Whoever lands a helping hand to God, in any healthcare related activity, should be proud of it on the one hand and, on the other hand, they should refrain from any behaviour or attitude likely to affect life in a negative way.
  1. In fact, in the beginning, faith and healing were integrated. Today, medical science limits itself to what is physical, observable and replicable. In this process, our concept of the person has become fragmented. Diseases of the body are the concern of medicine, problems of the mind are the realm of psychology, while spiritual problems are relegated to pastors and priests.
  2. It is now our duty to bring faith and the practice of medicine back together as an integrated whole. To do this, we must first recognize the wholeness of the person we seek to heal; the combination of body, spirit, emotions and other phenomena. Let me try to outline how we can bring medicine and faith back together:

NUMBER ONE: Healthcare professionals must understand who the whole person is, and how thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires affect our total health and healing.

NUMBER TWO: We need to learn how to refer sick persons to pastoral caregivers and how to work together with them as a team.

NUMBER THREE: Medical and pastoral leaders need to find ways to develop this team approach in hospitals, clinics, and private practice situations. We must adopt a holistic approach; trying to involve the whole community in the many aspects of this long healing journey.

  1. Indeed, this integrated medico-pastoral approach to healing has proven successful in Burundi and in different other countries.
  1. There are definite limits of medical science. Unfortunately, not all human conditions and afflictions can be adequately diagnosed even after exhaustive tests and studies. Medical providers live with that reality every day and so do our patients.
  1. When specialists and diagnostic studies have not revealed a cause to your symptoms, it does not mean you do not have a problem. It just means that no one has been able to find thus far except God Who knows everything.
  1. We all know of many cases when doctors give up their patients. The latter would pound the streets in search for a solution but in vain. Once all ways and means have proven inadequate, an invisible hand works a miracle. That invisible hand is God.
  1. There are situations where death certificates are established, where people are taken to the mortuary or even to the cemetery but, manage to return to life, leaving doctors speechless and onlookers astounded.
  2. I have learned that when doctors get sick with serious disease, they tend to reconsider their spiritual beliefs. Doctors should not wait for the above situation to arise; they should always seek advice, guidance and inspiration from God if they want to be more efficient and successful in the long run.
  1. All things considered, one can say that death is an enemy to humanity, but it is not out of God’s control. The number of days that we will live on this earth is ordained by God, not by the medical science. It is God Who has the power to shorten or prolong it. Read Isaiah 38:5 or Job 14:5 for better understanding.
  1. However, death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things. There is nothing we can do about it; we have to do with it.
  1. St Paul said that God’s plan is ‘… to bring all things together.’ We can play a crucial part in this by allowing God to work through healthcare professionals and leaders to reunite medicine and faith because, as God told Moses, ‘I am the Lord who heals you’.
  2. It is upon this “Back to basics and common sense note”, that I declare open in Bujumbura, Republic of Burundi the Sixth East African Health and Scientific Conference; International Health Exhibition and Trade fair. I wish you fruitful discussions during the three days of this important event. You can always count on my prayers, my encouragement and my unwavering support.

Long live Science and Research at the service of life;

Long live Regional Integration for the benefit of our respective peoples;

Thank you for your kind attention.