Chiengi Member of Parliament Ms Given Katuta was on Tuesday, 15th October 2019 elected to head the Inter Parliamentary Union IPU Advisory Group on Health at the ongoing 141st IPU Assembly in Belgrade, Serbia.
Ms Katuta, MP, who is Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) was elected from amongst other Group members after beating her opponent Honourable Bayr from the Austrian Parliament.  She takes over from Honourable Millet from the National Assembly of Bangladesh to serve a four-year term as President of the Advisory Group until June 2023.
And speaking after the election, Honourable Katuta said she was humbled at the confidence shown in her by other members of the Group and added that she would rise to the occasion and ensure that her mandate would be of total commitment to the Group’s objectives.
“I am ready to rise up to the challenge and will consult widely with relevant institutions and technocrats to ensure that that we deliver what is expected of our Group.  The position is not for me but for mother Zambia” said Honourable Katuta.
On the sidelines of the 141st IPU Assembly, on Wednesday 16th October 2019, Ms Katuta, MP met with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who pledged to support the work of the Group.  Dr Ghebreyesus, who is a former Parliamentarian in Ethiopia, observed that parliaments have the power to move things and was confident that the Group would carry out its mandate with the support of their respective governments and other institutions who they share a vision with. He mentioned that WHO and the Advisory Group would have to work closely in order to follow the guidelines which are stipulated in the Resolutions on the health sector which would be passed at the end of the Serbia Assembly.
And Honourable Katuta mentioned that, although she is not from a medical background, she has a passion for the health sector and looks forward to looking at a success story at the end of her term of office. This follows her observance and experience of poor health facilities offered in her rural constituency in Chiengi, Zambia. She added that this made her realise that the health sector was lagging behind and it prompted her to fight for the Right to Health. She also pointed out that although she was aware of the poor funding in the health sector, she was positive that the Group would influence parliaments to implement the resolutions on health.
The Advisory Group on Health is one of the IPU organs whose main focus is to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic and also aims to significantly improve the health of women and children in different parts of the world.  The Group’s work is part of the overall commitment to health and to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Set up in 2006, the Group’s prime to focus was initially on HIV/AIDS before it expanded to include Maternal, New-born and Child Health (MNCH).  The group also helps parliaments to formulate effective laws to respond better to HIV/AIDS and to ensure access to health care for mothers and children. Further, the Group focus on fighting discrimination and punitive legislation, and addresses the direct link between HIV/AIDS and women’s sexual and reproductive health rights.
The Group also guides parliaments on implementing international commitments on HIV/AIDS and MNCH, helps design information and training material for MPs to strengthen parliamentary action on the issues, and conducts field visits to assess national responses to international commitments, and to scrutinize the process for law reform. They also document good practices and make recommendations for change.
They Advisory Group can take action to support parliaments which have asked for assistance on either HIV/AIDS or MNCH. They also help to lobby institutions to deal with specific issues such as increasing access to medicines, health care, improving the legal framework or improving human rights.
Other broad areas of focus for the Group include legislation and its enforcement, discrimination, access to treatment and the situation of children, especially orphans.
The Group is the only IPU body which includes technical partners with an advisory role. Current partners are UNAIDs, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, the WHO and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
The Group meets twice a year and reports to the IPU Governing Council and comprises mostly experts in the field. Currently, the members of the Group are drawn from Austria, Cuba, India, Kuwait, Mexico, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Uzbekistan and South Africa. The Members are appointed by the IPU President for a single four-year term.