SPEECH BY THE
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF WEST AFRICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION
AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF ECOWAS CROSS-MEETING ON EPIDEMIC-PRONE DISEASES INCLUDING MALARIA AND NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES
Monrovia, 12 December 2016
- All protocol observed
On behalf of His Excellency Mr. Marcel Alain DE SOUZA, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, on behalf of the Director General of WAHO, I wish to first of all thank Her Excellency the President of the Republic of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for authorizing the holding of this cross-border meeting here in Monrovia and above all for her continuing efforts to strengthen the health systems of the ECOWAS countries in general, and Liberia in particular.
My appreciation also goes to the Minister of Health for all the attention she has given to this cross-border meeting on epidemic-prone diseases including Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, and for sending a representative. This illustrates adequately the importance attached to the strengthening of surveillance and cross-border management of epidemics and to the "One Health" approach.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is now established that zoonotic diseases can have a direct impact on public health. Thus, for twenty years, major health crisis have multiplied and new pathologies appear or reappear. This was the case of epizootics due to the Nipah virus in Asia in 1999, foot-and-mouth disease in Europe in 2001, highly pathogenic avian influenza in almost all regions of the world in 2004. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002, or vector-borne diseases such as the Ebola Virus disease in 2014-2015 and Rift Valley fever in 2016.
I would also like to recall that the recent epidemic of the Ebola virus (EVD) in the West African region, with more than 28,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths, has revealed the critical importance of strengthening the disease surveillance systems, inter-sectoral collaboration and inter-agency and inter-agency cooperation to enable early detection of outbreaks of diseases to provide a rapid and effective response.
Lessons learned from the management of this crisis have clearly demonstrated that an epidemic can rapidly transcend local and national borders and hamper trade between countries with severe economic consequences for the affected countries. It is important to note that it is important for health institutions to focus on the cross-border issue of managing epidemics and public health emergencies, taking into account the "Single Health" approach in order to Promoting the exchange of health information among countries and developing and adopting standardized procedures for joint and concerted responses at cross-border level for better response to public health events in the West African region.
In this respect, the current cross-border meeting on disease surveillance and epidemic management in cross-border areas and taking into account the One Health approach is timely.
I would like to urge all countries to take ownership of the conclusions that will emerge from this meeting and to contribute to their implementation, so that the cross-border areas are safer and serve as a means of rapprochement and all-round cooperation, movement of people and goods is a reality.
With this in mind, I can reassure you that WAHO, in line with its mandate to contribute to regional health integration, works for the development of cross-border activities and makes the "One Health" approach one of the strategies able to contribute to finding adequate responses to health problems in the ECOWAS area.
Thus, with the support of technical and financial partners, in particular the World Bank, WAHO is committed to building national and regional inter-sectoral capacities for disease surveillance and response to epidemics in West Africa through the implementation of the West Africa Regional Disease Surveillance project (WARDS), the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement project (REDISSE) and the Sahel Malaria and Neglected Tropical Disease (SMNTD).
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to reiterate my sincere thanks to:
- the World Bank Group for its support to WAHO through the financing of the various projects in the region, including WARDS, REDISSE and SMNTD;
- the World Health Organization for accepting to co-organize this activity with WAHO within the framework of the implementation of the WARDS and SMNTD projects financed by the World Bank;
- the International Organization for Migration for all the efforts made to improve the health status of the people of the ECOWAS region and their involvement in the preparation and holding of this meeting;
- the West African Monetary Union for their technical and financial support for the meeting; and
- USAID for agreeing to fund this activity.
I cannot conclude my remarks without paying a well-deserved tribute to the Liberian Minister of Health and all the members of the local organizing committee for the important work carried out in such a short time to ensure a successful workshop.Thank you for your attention