• By Reporter

Weaknesses in health systems has undermined ECOWAS COVID-19 response - WAHO


July 13, 2020 – The West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), Health Institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the weaknesses in health systems of ECOWAS Member States have undermined their responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Prof Stanley Okolo, Director General, WAHO made this known in a statement commemorating WAHO at 33, which was made available by the Directorate of Communication, ECOWAS Commission on Monday in Abuja.

According to Okolo, the scale and nature of the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in health systems that have undermined response efforts, including weaknesses in infrastructure, human resources, diagnostic and therapeutic facilities.

He said the pandemic also exposed weaknesses in manufacturing capacity particularly of medicines and vaccines, and deficits in the level of community engagement required to effectively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Okolo said the pandemic therefore offers West African Member states both an insight into the shortcomings, and also an opportunity to resolve to do better.

He however noted that both the leaders and the led have had to endure the same facilities and utilise the same health resources with the obvious challenges.

He also urged everyone to practices strict personal hygiene and observe social distancing which remains the most effective way to curb the spread of the virus.

“We can therefore commit ourselves to break the stranglehold of poor health funding, neglect of human resources for health, and weak health systems through innovative involvement of the private sector, civil society organisations and universal community health insurance schemes.

“We must rebuild trust with our populations and engage community and religious leaders in strengthening public adherence to the social distancing and personal hygiene measures critical to defeating the current pandemic.

“It is within our power as individuals to protect ourselves and our loved ones and rapidly contain community transmission of the virus.

“Today, on WAHO Day, I am challenging every citizen of West Africa to make a pact with 10 of your friends or family to practise scrupulous personal hygiene.

“And responsible social distancing, to never be out in public without a face mask, and to encourage each other to keep the pact during this pandemic.

“You will be amazed at how quickly this pandemic will go down in your community,” he said.

He however noted that the lessons from the Ebola epidemic and the support of partners through various health security strengthening programs meant that the disease surveillance and preparedness architecture in the ECOWAS region was in a much better shape going into the Covid-19 pandemic than was the case before.

Okoko said all countries had set up National Public Health Institutions for coordinating public health preparedness and response to epidemics, networked regionally through WAHO and its Agency, the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (RCSDC).

He said a regional reference laboratory network had been set up with WAHO support and formalised regular Communication policies and platforms ensured there was transparency, early warnings, peer support and mutual respect and trust among Member States.

Okolo said that since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 infection a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, WAHO has worked tirelessly to support the region.

He said WAHO had put efforts in protecting the ECOWAS populations, coordinating communication and collaboration between Member States, and between the region and partners,

He said the health organization also supported individual Member States with critical medical supplies, diagnostic test kits, online training to build capacity, public health advisory, and targeted funding for specific activities to help flatten the curve of the pandemic.

Okolo said WAHO encourages governments to continue to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations, to safeguard the delivery of essential health services particularly to women, children, the elderly and marginalised populations.

He said the organization also urges governments to reward the selfless services of all those in the frontline of fighting this pandemic – the doctors, nurses, contact tracers, laboratory, volunteers, and their families.

He said WAHO will continue to work with the Ministers and national experts of all ECOWAS Member States, Africa Centre for Disease Control, the WHO Afro Regional Office, and with all our partners to sustain the strong collaborative efforts within the region.

The WAHO D-G appreciated the Authorities of all ECOWAS Member States for their total and continuous support to WAHO in the discharge of its mandate of regional integration through health.

He also thanked the President and Government of Burkina Faso for the cordial present and future hospitality as the Host Government of WAHO Headquarters.

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