World leaders have adopted a political declaration to combat “lifestyle” diseases but stopped short of setting targets to reduce the number of people succumbing to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, lung disease and other non-communicable ailments.
Leaders attending a special United Nations meeting in New York pledged to adopt formal targets before the end of 2012 by using voluntary policies to cut smoking and reduce salt, sugar and fat in foods to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.
Health Minister Dr. Henry Madzorera told VOA that he is disappointed the resolution did not call for more decisive action, as was the case with HIV/AIDS, in order to save many of the 52 million lives projected to be lost by 2030 worldwide.
While acknowledging the declaration is the first comprehensive international step in fighting non-communicable diseases, Madzorera said that having recognized that these illnesses are now a global threat that must be addressed, the declaration did not commit the international community to increased and sustained resources for the fight.
Madzorera said the declaration provides a good platform for further discussions on possible interventions in dealing with non-communicable diseases.
President Robert Mugabe on Monday challenged the international community to help Africa fight the non-communicable diseases that are now killing more people on the continent than aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
Mr. Mugabe said Africa as the least developed continent is handicapped in its efforts to battle such diseases and needs help as was, and remains, the case with AIDS.
Mr. Mugabe said Zimbabwe supported the political declaration on preventing and treating the so-called silent killers that leaders approved on Tuesday.
President Mugabe called on international pharmaceutical firms to license drug makers in the global South to make less expensive generic drugs to treat diseases like diabetes, hypertension or high blood pressure, and other non-communicable diseases.
Dr. Portia Manangazira, head of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health, said Zimbabwe is reeling under the impact of non-communicable diseases, making the UN conference a timely intervention.
Madzorera said Zimbabwe must learn from other countries how to strengthen national capacity to prevent and control such diseases.