The WCPT Africa General Meeting and Congress were held in Nairobi, Kenya, in June. During the meeting, the new regional Chair, Jean Damascene Gasherebuka, charted a way ahead for WCPT Africa. And outgoing Chair, Esther Munalula Nkandu, had the opportunity to review past achievements and say some farewells.
The physical therapy profession needs to be well-prepared and well-equipped to play its role in addressing the many health challenges populations in Africa are facing, said Jean Damascene Gasherebuka, who is a physical therapist at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, Rwanda.
“We must move forward in areas of education and training, clinical practice regulations, continuing professional development programmes and evidence based practice,” he said. “This is the right time for African physiotherapists to rise and take our responsibility to deliver good quality care to our populations and allow them to remain healthy and more productive.”
The profession needed pro-active and confident leaders, he said, who would adhere to corporate governance with the values of efficiency, integrity, responsibility, transparency and accountability. They would be able to work according to clear goals, be able to prioritise and communicate effectively.
He pointed to the need to reinforce membership of the region, establish a forum of educators in Africa, develop clinical and academic subgroups, review the region’s constitution, and promote projects that would generate funds for the region.
“The theme of this congress is ‘Moving Physiotherapy forward in Africa’” he said. “This cannot be achieved without sincere collaboration among all member organisations that form the WCPT Africa region.”
Meanwhile, Esther Munalula Nkandu stood down as Chair of the region after four years in office. In that time, she has visited several countries within the region, assessing strengths, weaknesses and ways forward. “With a very dedicated Executive Commitee, we have been able to achieve a number of goals,” she said. “We were able to improve the communication system in the region and address some health and educational issues.” As the region had grown, she said, it had also been important to address governance issues.
“One of the health issues addressed was HIV and AIDS. We were able to make presentations on the role of physiotherapy in the HIV and AIDS pandemic and embrace palliative care from an African perspective – with an emphasis not just on death and dying but on improving the quality of life. We also addressed the role of physiotherapy in bioethics.”
A number of countries, such as Malawi and Kenya, have started BSc programmes in physical therapy over the past four years. Other countries like Zambia have started an MSc programme while Nigeria is beginning to rollout a Doctor of Physiotherapy programme.
“At the time we took office we promised to drive the membership agenda,” says Esther Munalula Nkandu. “We deliberately contacted a number of countries that had stopped participating in regional issues. We further targeted countries in North and West Africa and especially the French speaking countries. We can proudly report that at the congress in Nairobi we had over 300 delegates from over 20 countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger, Sudan and Togo.”
“I am delighted to have handed over office to Jean Gasherabauka who will no doubt take the region to greater heights.”
The WCPT Africa Congress brought together a number of experts who stressed the importance to the profession in Africa of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), evidence based practice and the millennium development goals.