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Osinbajo urges Ecowas, Waho to address burden of communicable diseases in West Africa

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Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole (left) and Togolese Minister of Health, Prof Moustafa Midjiyawa at the 18th Ordinary Meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Assembly of Health Ministers at the body’s secretariat Abuja…yesterday.PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA


Acing President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) to invest their efforts towards the reduction in the burden of communicable diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in the region.

He noted that while the recent outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in Democratic Republic of Congo raises concerns, the West Africa sub-region must actively take steps to be prepared by establishing preventive measures to avoid its spread to the West Africa sub-region.

Declaring open the 18th Ordinary Session of Health Ministers of the ECOWAS sub-region yesterday in Abuja, Osinbajo stressed the need for the region to put in place a strong resilient health systems warning that the West African region should never again be taken unawares in such outbreaks as we experienced in 2014 during the Ebola Virus outbreak with colossal loss of lives, economic resources and security threat to national survival.

He said, “Public Health Emergency Preparedness should be a task that we are determined to achieve. The establishment of the Regional Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (R-CDC) is therefore an excellent idea in building capacity and ensuring effective surveillance, detection and prompt response to disease outbreaks such as this. Nigeria, is ready to give the necessary support towards ensuring adequate taken off of the R-CDC.

He observed that by the founding protocol, WAHO is entrusted with a political mandate by the Heads of State and Government to ensure coordination of regional health interventions within the ECOWAS region adding that the vision of the founding fathers, to see a harmonized, unified response to the expanding health challenges of the sub region has proved to be daunting as differences in language and systems, and procedures have thrown up peculiar difficulties.

Osinbajo noted that with a population of about 365 million, the West African region has similarities of disease burden adding that al the countries have huge burdens of malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases and other newly emerging diseases, Ebola and Lassa fever.

He said, “ These, combined with poverty and malnutrition have thrown up public health challenges of immense proportions for the individual nation States and the WAHO. The existing disparity among health standards, expertise and policies in West Africa is a significant barrier to better overall health. The lack of reciprocal recognition of regulatory processes between Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone countries is a constraint to human resource mobility that, once removed, will allow quality and affordable medicines to circulate throughout the region as needed”.

Also speaking, Director General of WAHO, Dr. Xavier Crespin observed that WAHO is also in talks with the European Union to see how EU can assist in strengthening the health systems especially in the area of tackling non-communicable diseases.

He noted that the organization’s strategic plan towards 2016-2020 is aimed improving the health of our communities within this period and also reduce the high rate of maternal and child mortality in the region.

Crespin noted that the meeting would focus deliberate and come up with decisions on the use of Evidence in Health policy formulation, Task Shifting, Maternal Health, Child Health, Combatting Communicable and Non-communicable diseases as well as Hospital Reform.

In his remarks, Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole stressed the need to invest more in research that could guarantee adequate and reliable data necessary for policy formulation on Health issues in West Africa.

He also enjoined Member States to focus on controlling tobacco, saying concerted efforts should be geared towards controlling sale of cigarettes in the region for the overall benefit of “our people”.

Adewole noted that in order to address the shortage of vaccine, FG signed MOU with May and Baker local production and stressed the need for ECOWAS to reciprocate the commitment of Nigeria by ceding my leadership role to Nigerians in WAHO.


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