The Director-General of the West African Health Organization, WAHO, Prof Stanley Okolo has charged countries in the region to give priority to disease surveillance and preparedness so as to be able to combat outbreak of epidemics.
Prof Okolo gave the charge on Thursday while declaring open the Third Regional Steering Committee Meeting of REDISSE Project in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement, REDISSE, is at the third phase in the region and is funded by the World Bank.
According to Prof Okolo, “We are bringing the countries together because epidemics response and preparedness in each country will determine how strong we will be in our region.
“Our responsibility is to bring the countries together, challenge them, support and promote what will give us the epidemic preparedness. The first 48 hours in the outbreak of any epidemic is critical and what you do is dependent on how prepared you are.
“We look at how countries can set up their system surveillance, get information from all the districts and all the public health system, how they analyze the information, how they have set up laboratories that will support surveillance so they can do the test to determine the illness.
“The response is determined by the preparedness of each country. This is to avoid the problem we had in 2014 during Ebola outbreak in the region.
“What is the reality in 2018? We still have recurrent mini outbreak, we haven’t got Ebola at the moment and we know that we cannot predict it.
“If we ourselves could not muster the funds and we know that people are talking about it, isn’t this the opportunity we have to get ourselves prepared when we have the funds that we can use?, Prof Okolo siad.
Also speaking, the representative of the World Bank and Senior Health Specialist, Dr John Paul Clark, expressed delight at the 3rd Regional Steering Committee Meeting, which seeks to appraise the implementation of the REDISSE project with a view to ensure improved implementation.
According to him, “The recommendations at the meeting will be used by WAHO and the international partners at the regional level to further provide support and technical assistance that will help the World Bank streamline the procedures to assess funds.
Representative of the Minister of Health and REDISSE Coordinator in Nigeria, Mrs Olubunmi Ojo, agreed that there is need to restructure the project especially as it affects the terms of distribution of funds.
The objective of REDISSE Project is to “strengthen national and regional cross-sectoral capacity for collaborative disease surveillance and epidemic preparedness in West Africa by remedying the weaknesses of human and animal health systems that hinder effective disease surveillance and response “; and in the event of emergency, “ provide immediate and effective response to same”.
It has five (05) components: C1: Surveillance and Health Information; C2: Laboratory Capacity Building; C3: Preparedness and Emergency Response; C4: C4: Human Resource Management for effective disease surveillance and preparedness against epidemics; and C5: Institutional capacity building, Project management, Coordination and Advocacy.