By: Audrey Raymonda John

Marlborough House, London, on the 16th November 2023

Dr. Isata Mahoi, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, took center stage yesterday alongside other dignitaries, in launching the innovative Commonwealth Youth-Focused Guiding Framework for tackling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) within the Commonwealth.

Official data shows that NCDs, caused by Physical Inactivity and Unhealthy Diets are responsible for 41 million deaths per year, accounting for 74% of deaths worldwide. It has also been noted that 10 million of those deaths, caused by lifestyle-related illnesses, occur in Commonwealth countries.

The Marlborough House event, focused on exploring ways to tackle this menace, was attended by high-profile personalities, including Commonwealth Secretary General, The Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland KC; First Ladies HE Mariam Mwinyi of Zanzibar and HE Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow of The Gambia; HE Fatou Bensouda, The Gambia High Commissioner to the U.K.; HE Ms. Saida Muna Tasneem, High Commissioner of Bangladesh; Dr. Jeanelle de Gruchy, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England; Dr. Janneth Mghamba, Health Adviser, Commonwealth Secretariat; and Maya Nanan, Commonwealth Youth Award Recipient.

The new Guiding Framework is crafted  to accelerate progress in reducing diseases attributed to unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity among the youth.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s ambitious goal is to effectively tackle the two key risk factors – physical inactivity and unhealthy diets – by fostering behavioral change among young people, thereby contributing to adding value to the NCD Countdown 2030 initiative.

Immediately following the launch, of the Youth Framework, Dr. Isata Mahoi participated in a high level panel discussion on the rising burden of NCDs, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases. Exploring the subject, the panel looked at  “What’s next: Perspectives on implementation, opportunities and ways forward”.

In her contribution, Dr. Mahoi began by expressing gratitude to His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio for her appointment, giving her the opportunity to engage distinguished participants in the bid to tackle global challenges such as the escalating burden of NCDs, particularly as it impacts women, youth, and children. She applauded the Commonwealth for the NCD Guiding framework, and its focus on young people in the concerted fight against disease.

Calling for youth-led advocacy campaigns, Dr. Mahoi stressed the effectiveness of peer-to-peer engagements and suggested the inclusion of this initiative in the 2024 CHOGM Samoa deliberations.

Dr. Isata Mahoi lauded the opportunities presented by the Guiding Framework; emphasising the strengthening of primary healthcare for NCD management; tapping into the youthful population’s potential for research and innovation; and accelerating efforts to achieve the 2030 NCD-related Sustainable Development Goals.

Lamenting the increasing burden of diseases, especially among women and youth, she identified opportunities within the Guiding Framework, urging widespread dissemination, integration into national plans, and collaboration with key partners such as the Ministries of Health and Youth Affairs.

In conclusion, Dr. Isata Mahoi looked forward to collaborating with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Youth Affairs, the Ministry of Sports, Civil Society and the Private Sector, in the bid to address this rising challenge and reduce the grim statistics in Sierra Leone, the commonwealth and beyond.

As efforts intensify to bolster Commonwealth member countries in  the battle to combat the prevalence of disease, the objective is to tackle the escalating burden of NCDs by devising and executing enhanced youth-centric strategies and interventions, with a focus on curbing unhealthy diets and fostering physical activity across the Commonwealth.

According to him, he had received series of complaint saying the food for the prisoners is not “palatable”.


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