Epidemic Prevention, Response: WAHO Committed To One Health Approach – Athanase 

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The director-general, West Africa Health Organisation, Dr. Melchior Athanase (right) and other participants during the workshop in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

The West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) has said that it is strongly committed to adopting the One Health approach to strengthen national and regional mechanisms for prevention, detection and response to epidemics in West Africa. 

The director-general, WAHO, Dr. Melchior Athanase said this on Monday in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, at the opening of a three-day regional technical workshop to commemorate the 2022 World One Health Day, commemorated annually on November 3. 

Athanase highlighted that the region has battled the menace of recurrent epidemics and other health emergencies for several years.

“We believe a harmonised and consensual governance manual, specifying the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in place of a regional multi-sectoral coordination mechanism, presents itself to us as an absolutely useful tool,” he said. 

Also, he reassured that WAHO and the ECOWAS regional disease surveillance and control centre remain available to support member states in the implementation of the one health approach for the well-being of all living beings in symbiosis in a shared environment within the region’s communities.

Speaking on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Ms Stella Gaetani said the ministry is committed to ensuring that the One Health approach is successfully implemented across West Africa. 

Gaetani said BMZ has been a reliable partner of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) for many years and the German Development Cooperation/GIZ has become a close partner for technical cooperation since 2016.  

“Through its Regional Programme Support to Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS Region (RPPP), the German Development Cooperation works closely with WAHO to improve the regional surveillance, preparedness and control architecture for infectious diseases. 

“To this end, it is supporting WAHO in operationalising the Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (RCSDC) which was opened in Abuja in 2018. Another important implementation partner is the Regional Animal Health Centre,” she said. 

She further stated that the German government and its European partners would remain strong allies in the endeavour.

To buttress the DG’s points, Cote d’ Ivoire’s Minister of Health, Mr. Pierre N’Gou Dimba said his country has always been active in One Health advocacy meetings and remained committed to putting in place a mechanism for national, multisectoral, functional and perennial coordination.

“This will involve all the actors of the sectors concerned and involved in the fight against health threats, particularly the human health sector, the animal health sector, agriculture and the environment sector. 

“We welcome this effort and urge all representatives and countries to take ownership of the various governance tools of the regional coordination mechanism for better implementation of the One Health approach,” Dimba explained. 

Science Nigeria reports that the workshop which precedes the World One Health Day, aims to foster networking and trust-building between human, animal and environmental health sectors across the ECOWAS region.

The objective of the conference is to strengthen one health collaboration in the ECOWAS region and consult with member states on progress made in operationalising the Regional One Health Coordination Mechanism (R-OHCM) and the development of a Regional One Health Strategy.

The three-day regional technical workshop – organised as part of ECOWAS’ plan to institutionalise the One Health approach in the region – is the result of a collaboration between RCSDC, One Health secretariat, the Regional Animal Health Centre (RAHC), WAHO, ECOWAS Directorate of Environment and all supporting technical and financial partners.

The event was funded by the GIZ Regional Programme Support to Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS Region (RPPP II), with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), European Union (EU) and the BMZ.

Racheal Abujah
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