By Omar Bah
The Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO) Prof. Stanley Okolo has said that the outbreak of diseases such as Ebola calls for the urgent need to strengthen health systems, surveillance, preparedness and response capacities.
“As you know, there is a new outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is a wake-up call on all member countries to always remain alert and prepared.”
He said the region has suffered a chain of diseases and outbreaks such as Lassa Fever, Rift Valley Fever, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Ebola and others in recent times not forgetting the Non Communicable Diseases that claims dozens of lives each year.
“All these brought to the fore the urgent need for us to strengthen our health systems as well as our surveillance, preparedness and response capacities,” he said during the opening of WAHO Liaison Officers’ Meeting, preceding the 19th Ordinary Assembly of ECOWAS Health Ministers (AHM) at the Kairaba Hotel.
He said ensuring optimal health of the people in our region is a permanent challenge in the face of recurring epidemic and endemic diseases, but WAHO, he added, will not relent in their efforts to surmount this challenge.
“The most important thing to us is to start looking at how we can focus on impacting the health of the population in ECOWAS, there are over three hundred million people in the region and every member should felt the impact of what we are doing,” he stated.
WAHO, he said, as a regional organisation is focused on trying to energise and elevate health and medical healthcare in the region.
The five days meeting, he said, will discuss topics such as the regional laboratory strategic plan, mental health plan, pharmaceutical regulations and obstetric fistula. “These issues will be presented to technical experts from member countries for review and then, eventually to the Ministers of Health for approval,” he stated.
He said they aware of the fact that The Gambia is faced with challenges in terms of health financing, “But Gambia is not alone in terms of challenges in health financing and funding and some of the things we are doing ourselves is to try and see how we build capacity between countries.”
“And Gambia is a prime example that we are looking at to try and support the country in terms of some of the capacities required, be it post-graduate training or in terms of building capacity networks of those working in primary healthcare in terms of surveillance, monitoring and tracking information,” he said.