The West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) and the World Health Organization in the African Region have mapped out key areas of collaboration to improve health in the West African sub-region.
This follows a hybrid meeting held on the 3rd of September 2021 when a high-level delegation led by Professor Stanley Okolo, the Director-General of WAHO visited Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa at WHO-AFRO headquarters in Brazzaville, Congo.
Welcoming the WAHO delegation, Dr Moeti stated that “Together we have helped to realize a number of strategic achievements. In my view, our five-year agreement has helped us to take a collective and comprehensive approach to improve health outcomes in West Africa. It’s clear that there is a huge amount of complementarity and synergy. There is the need to invest in monitoring and evaluation as well as documenting what has been achieved.”
In his remarks, Prof Stanley Okolo thanked the leadership of WHO for their work in the region and emphasized the need to maximize the impact of joint activities through synergy, stating that this was necessary to mitigate the array of health issues facing the sub-region.
Collaboration between the two organizations over the past five years has yielded significant milestones such as the improvements in epidemics surveillance and response achieved under the World Bank funded Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) project established in 2017.
The collaboration had also led to adoption and enforcement of tobacco control laws in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania and the Gambia, strengthening of regulatory capacity for food an non-alcoholic beverages in 11 ECOWAS Member States, and tobacco tax reforms in Cabo Verde and Nigeria.
Professor Okolo lauded the progress made on several joint activities, particularly the REDISSE project which has enhanced national and regional cross-sectoral capacity for collaborative disease surveillance, preparedness and effective response.
“I understand the surveillance architecture in West Africa, pre-Ebola was less advanced than pre-COVID19 which is a testimony to the benefits of working together to improve health security in the region. REDISSE really helped in terms of building National Public Health Institutes across ECOWAS Member States and expanding the epidemiology workforce”, said Professor Stanley Okolo.
He pointed out that both organizations have complimentary capabilities and resources and could work together on many fronts. Given the disease outbreaks and epidemics in the sub-region, strengthening preparedness and response was identified as a critical area.
Emphasis was placed on strengthening national level workforce with the technical, operational and logistical know-how to rapidly respond to health emergencies, surveillance, laboratory capacity on diagnosis and genomic sequencing along with data sharing.
Speaking on the global initiative that set a goal of ten percent (10%) COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa by the end of September 2021, Dr. Moeti discussed areas of possible collaboration with WAHO in assessing the situation of Member States in West Africa to determine whether the issue lies with funding or a misunderstanding of the degree of logistics required for an efficient vaccine rollout strategy.
She urged both parties to ensure that other diseases endemic to the region are not ignored during the time of the pandemic particularly Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
There were presentations at the meeting on epidemics and emergency response across borders and points of entry, maternal & child health issues, and on medicines & vaccines to mention but a few.
Some of the recommendations include jointly providing sustainable holistic, integrated support to countries to boost the development of health products, improve maternal and child heath, strengthen regulatory systems on medicines and vaccines, as well as the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.
Both parties agreed to invest more in monitoring and evaluation of activities, timely determination of existing gaps in public health needs and in the creation and implementation of joint activities.
They agreed to address challenges, sustain their collaborative achievements, drive further improvements, and build on their respective comparative advantages, including on advocacy to member states to strengthen their health infrastructures using domestic financing.