The West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), marks 33rd anniversary milestone as the Health Institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
In a statement signed by Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General, WAHO and copied to the Ghana News Agency, said since 1987 it worked closely to advance the health agenda in the region.
The statement said it worked towards improvement in national immunization programmes and investments in malaria prevention strategies, through the excellent initiatives in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The organization is aimed at improving demographic transition in the region; the herculean efforts that defeated Ebola in the region was in collaboration with the Ministries of Health of the 15-Member States of ECOWAS.
“As we mark WAHO Day this year; the sub-region has not been spared from the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world, the lessons of the Ebola epidemic and the support of our partners through various health security strengthening programmes meant that the disease surveillance and preparedness architecture in the ECOWAS region was in a much better shape going into the COVID-19 pandemic than was the case before,” it said.
It said all countries had set up National Public Health Institutions for coordinating public health preparedness and response to epidemics, networked regionally through WAHO and its Agency, the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (RCSDC).
The statement said a Regional Reference Laboratory Network was set up with WAHO support to formalize regular Communication policies and platforms and to ensure there was transparency, early warnings, peer support and mutual respect and trust among Member States.
It said since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 infection a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, WAHO has worked tirelessly to support the region and protect our populations, coordinating communication.
It said the scale and nature of the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in the health systems that undermined response efforts, including; weaknesses in infrastructure, human resources, diagnostic and therapeutic facilities, manufacturing capacity particularly of medicines and vaccines, and deficits in the level of community engagement required to effectively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can therefore commit ourselves to break the stranglehold of poor health funding, neglect of human resources for health, and weak health systems through innovative involvement of the private sector, civil society organisations and universal community health insurance schemes,” it said.
It said the government must rebuild trust with its populations and engage community and religious leaders in strengthening public adherence to the social distancing and personal hygiene measures critical to defeating the current pandemic.
“It is within our power as individuals to protect ourselves and our loved ones and rapidly contain community transmission, we challenge every citizen of West Africa to practise scrupulous personal hygiene and responsible social distancing.
“Never be out in public without a face mask, and to encourage each other to keep the pact during this pandemic. You will be amazed at how quickly this pandemic will go down in your community.” It said.
It called on governments to continue to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations, to safeguard the delivery of essential health services particularly women, children, Elderly and marginalised populations.
It also called for a reward for selfless services of all those in the frontline of fighting this pandemic; the doctors, nurses, contact tracers, laboratory, volunteers, and their families.
It said WAHO would continue to work with the Ministers and National Experts of all ECOWAS Member States, Africa Centre for Disease Control, the WHO Afro Regional Office.
It would collaborate with all our partners to sustain strong efforts within the region.
It said there was a lot of work to do, but believed that WAHO would continue to serve the region creditably from a Comity of States to a Comity of People.