The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funding from the Government of Japan has organized a four day workshop on improving disease monitoring capacities and early warning system in West African countries.
The workshop is part of a regional project: Supporting and Strengthening Sub-Regional Post-Ebola Medical Surveillance and Socio-Economic Recovery Initiatives in West Africa, which is designed to provide technical assistance and support at sub-regional, national and grassroots level to the three Ebola affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), and Côte d’Ivoire. It was intended to assist these countries to address urgent needs in the health, social and economic recovery, conflict prevention and peace building in common border areas. This initiative also seeks to strengthen and assist border communities to better respond to disasters/epidemics.
The workshop is expected to result in improved abilities of five countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) to:
- Rapidly identify diseases of public health importance and outbreak potential
- Use GIS for enhanced disease surveillance especially at the border areas
- Apply tools for disease risk assessment, vulnerability mapping and effective risk communication towards preparedness and outbreak control.
Seven delegates each from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for a total of 35 participants attended the workshop.
In attendance were the Japanese Ambassador, the Sierra Leone High Commissioner, UNDP Country Director, Director for Public Health, GHS and a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
In his opening remarks, the Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) Professor Kwabena Mante Bosompem , welcomed all participants to the workshop and indicated that it was one of the most important programs to be organised and expressed his gratitude to the Japanese Embassy, the UNDP for their immense support. In his address, Professor Mante Bossompem indicated that there is a great expectation for the workshop and encouraged participating countries to work together in strengthening capacity across borders.
Professor Kwabena Mante Bosompem
The Japanese Ambassador His Excellency Kaoru Yoshimura said that in 2014 the West African Sub Region suffered an outbreak of the Ebola virus disease which many people lost their families, as a result the Government of Japan immediately responded to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease on the request of the Government of Ghana and the International organizations to support the unfortunate situation. According to the Ambassador, the support through the International Organization including UNDP reached over 127 million US Dollars in 2014 and 2015 respectively over the last three years.
‘Ebola today is no more a talking point and we are all proud of the achievement. It is important for us to take into account the lesson learnt from this outbreak and continue working on these issues to prevent catastrophe in the future. His Excellency indicated that at the TICAD VI conference in Kenya last year, Japan’s cooperation in the Health sector especially strengthening the Health System Resilience was introduced as one of the three committed pillars. He expressed his confidence about how the workshop will help contribute in strengthening the health system of the Region by sharing experience from different countries and enriching our skills and knowledge.
In his address, the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service Dr. Badu Sarkodie indicated that the global infectious disease outbreak such as Avian Influenza, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus, Meningitis and Yellow fever which spreads from Persons and across borders pose a serious public health risk to all countries and the risk is especially high for low and middle resourced countries with less developed systems to prevent ,detect and rapidly respond to emerging and re-emerging public health threats.
Dr Sarkodie said though Ghana was spared the EVD epidemic that affected the sub region, it is highly notable how the sub region still remains inadequately prepared to face the challenges with Public Health Emergencies. He revealed that Ghana has been having frequent Cholera outbreaks; 2014 was one of the worst with over 28,000 cases which led to 218 deaths.
CSM however, remains endemic in the three northern regions in this regard the WHO has urged member countries to develop and sustain adequate capacity for the implementation of international Health regulations and strengthen health systems. According to the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service, Ghana recently subjected its systems to Joint External Evaluation which had revealed a number of gaps which required urgent attention which will position the country to contribute meaningfully to the global health security agenda as a result there is the need for countries to fully develop National Action Plan for Health Security and the need to invest in Health Security which must be seen by all as a major contribution towards sustaining Developmental Goals.
In conclusion, he expressed his expectation that the workshop should propose strategies and practical mechanisms for epidemic prevention and control that will enhance community resilience and preparedness for epidemics and all other public health emergences to protect humanity and livelihood’. He also expressed his delight and gratefulness about Ghana being selected as the host country for the workshop and added that Ghana will continue to support regional and continental efforts for emerging diseases.
The UNDP Country Director Dr. Domimic Sam said the 2014 Ebola outbreak which spread wide in the West Africa Sub region indicated how important it is to be prepared and work as a team. According to him the Sustainable Development Goal 3 stressed the need for countries to work together as a team to fight such Epidemics. He indicated that there is the need to put systems in place to strengthen Capacity which was the reason for the workshop.
Workshop participants from Cote d'Ivoire
Participants from Ghana
Workshop participants from Guinea
Participants from Liberia
Participants from Seirra Leone