Disaster and emergency preparedness and response are important to animal health experts as they are to physicians because animals are impacted by the same disasters and emergencies, be it natural or manmade.
Mr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director-General of Ghana Health Service, who was speaking at the consultative workshop to engage stakeholders and seek views on proposed policy development for the adoption and implementation of One Health Approach in Ghana, said 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases of people are zoonotic or originate from animals.
He said the dynamics of population mobility, peri-urban dwellings, emerging and re-emerging diseases, use of food additives and chemicals in the food chain, makes it a more challenging endeavour.
One Health Approach is a strategy that promotes inter-disciplinary collaboration among animal health, human health, environmental experts and relevant sectors with the goal of promoting public health and assuring health security.
Dr Nsiah-Asare said what makes One Health concept special was the recognition that health of humans was connected to the health of animals and the health of the environment.
That connectivity, he said, was the pillar of the workshop, adding any attempt for any sector to side-step the One Health approach to unilaterally achieve individual sector goals invariably derails the progress of other stakeholders in the context of One Health.
“The immediate agenda of One Health proponents will be to move beyond the conceptual, and fully operationalize it by forming one health network, build capacity through formal education and workplace orientation, and adopting multi-disciplinary approach to case monitoring of events, detection, investigating and response to public health threats,” he added.
The Director-General noted that it would be of great benefit and advantageous to the different sectors to work together, and the good thing was that, a series of processes had already been initiated, which drives and promotes One Health at the same time.
Dr Nsiah-Asare, therefore, congratulates all Ministries, Departments and Agencies and partners for their collaborative efforts on Antimicrobial Resistance, Influenza Surveillance, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme, among others.
Mr Eric Nana Agyemang-Prempeh, Director-General of NADMO, said NADMO as a mandated agency responsible for coordinating multi-sector preparedness and response activities to manage disaster in the country was well positioned to coordinate the multi-sector engagements involving human health, animal health and environmental health.
He said the One Health Approach provides an opportunity to foster closer collaboration and stronger working relationship between human, animal and environmental health practitioners as well as provide mechanisms for building efficient systems for information sharing across all sectors.
“In line with this, a multi-sectoral Technical Working Group has been constituted to guide NADMO to coordinate a nationwide process to develop a national policy and action plan for One Health,” he added.
He, therefore, expressed his organisation’s appreciation to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for their continued funding and technical support.
Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Country Representative for Ghana, said it was estimated that six out of every 10 known infectious diseases and three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in people were spread from animals.
That, he said, implied that there were many shared microbes between animals and humans, and their interactions in the eco-system make transmission possible.
“Consequently, efforts by just one sector cannot prevent or control most of the health problems we are confronted with currently.
“It is therefore important that we build on existing structures to strengthen a broader One Health inter-sectoral partnership and coordination mechanism with clear roles and responsibilities to reflect the inter-dependence of these sectors in safe guarding human and animal health, food safety and environmental monitoring,” he said.
In a speech read for him, Mr Alexander Kwaning, the Chief Director at Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, said traditional knowledge was critical in conserving natural resources, protecting the environment, managing health and coping with extreme climate variability.
He said it was important to document indigenous knowledge into early warning systems and research and to establish its potential for scaling up.
“It is also important to establish clear linkages between the control of pollution and policies of other sectors including water resources, agriculture, human settlements, health and disaster prevention and preparedness,” he added.
In a speech read for him,Mr Baba Soumare, ECTAD Regional Manager for West and Central Africa, urged the meeting to make sure that promises made become promises kept and pledged the FAO’s preparedness to strive to promote the initiative.