By Omar Bah
Salifou Zouma, the director of planning and research at the West Africa Health Organisation, WAHO, has delivered the latest new information on challenges to health in Ecowas communities.
He was speaking during a meeting of health experts at the 19th Ordinary Assembly of Ecowas health ministers underway in Banjul.
Zouma, who also presented the Waho annual report intended as a summary of the main achievements and outcomes of the 2017 action plan implementation, said in 2017 alone, ECOWAS countries grappled with recurring epidemics of cholera, meningitis, measles and Lassa fever.
“Eight countries in the region (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) reported 4 460 cases of cholera including 116 deaths, representing a lethality rate of 2.6%.”
He said fourteen Ecowas countries reported a total of 40, 769 suspected or confirmed cases of measles, including 153 deaths.
“Nigeria, Guinea and Sierra Leone are the most affected countries, with nearly 80% of reported cases of the disease,” Mr Zouma told experts at the Kairaba hotel.
“A cumulative number of 6414 suspected cases of Yellow fever, including 51 deaths was recorded in thirteen (13) countries with the exception of Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau,” he added.
Mr Zouma said tuberculosis remains a major public health problem in the region.
“The estimated prevalence of the disease varies from 46 per 100, 000 inhabitants in Togo to 374 per 100, 000 in Guinea-Bissau in 2016, with ten countries out of the 15 of the community having a level of incidence greater than 100 per 100, 000 inhabitants.”
He said the number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHIV) was estimated at about 5,000 000.
“The median HIV prevalence in the general population aged 15-49 years was 1.6% with variations across countries. Less than 1% in Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Niger and Senegal, between 1% and 2% in Benin, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone and more than 2% in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Togo.
“Women accounted for 58% of adults and 50% of all PLWHIV,” he concluded.