Ebola: Nigeria urges commitment from West African health ministers

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja.

Nigeria has called on the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, to invest more efforts towards reducing the burden of communicable diseases, such as Ebola, in West Africa.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo made the call on Friday at the opening of the 18th Ordinary Meeting of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Assembly of Health Ministers holding at the ECOWAS Secretariat, Abuja.

“It seems to me that the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, through its strategic co-operations must invest more efforts towards reduction of the burden of communicable diseases in the regions such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS,” Osinbajo said.

He said the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Congo Democratic Republic raised concerns, requiring that “the West African Region must actively take steps to be prepared to establishing preventive measures to avoid its spread to the West African sub-region.”

The Acting President said West Africa, with its population of 365 million people, must ensure that it does not have another epidemic like the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which claimed many lives in some countries of the region.

From Left. Director General, WAHO, Mr. Xavier Crespin ; Togo Minister of Health, Prof. Moustafa Midjiyawa ;Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo ; Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole Pand Ecowas Vice President, Mr. Edward Singpatey during the Eightenth Ordinary Meeting of the Ecowas Assembly of Health Ministers at the Ecowas Secretariat Abuja on Friday

Disease control

Professor Osinbajo said the establishment of the Regional Centre for Disease Control, R-CDC, was an excellent idea in building capacity and ensuring effective surveillance and prompt response to the outbreak of diseases.

He assured the health ministers of Nigeria’s commitment toward giving the necessary support towards the adequate take off of the R-CDC and urged them to use the centre as a vehicle for health interventions across the region.

“No effort should therefore be spared by the region in ensuring that strong resilient health systems exist at country levels,” Osinbajo said.

He said the meeting was one of the important steps towards achieving the collective dreams and aspirations of the WAHO and commended the immense work that has gone on in pharmaceuticals under the organisation’s essential Medicines and Vaccines Programme.

Acting President Osinbajo also congratulated the African community on the election of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as the first African Director General of World Health Organization, WHO.

He said Ghebreyesus’ election showed “that Africa has all it takes to be entrusted with the responsibility of the health of not only its citizens, but also the global community.”

“This is indeed a welcome development and it should encourage us at the country levels to support him to achieve the ideals for which the WHO was established while doing much more for our people through increased domestic resource mobilisation, strategic purchasing and Universal Health Coverage,” he said.

From Left. Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole; Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo;Togo Minister of Health, Prof. Moustafa Midjiyawa and the Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo during the Eightenth Ordinary Meeting of the Ecowas Assembly of Health Ministers at the Ecowas Secretariat Abuja on Friday

Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said WAHO was a critical component of the ECOWAS because of the correlation between human health and capital development as well as the wealth of the people.

He said the burden of diseases over the years, which communicable diseases brought on mankind, has increased with the challenge posed by non-communicable diseases like cancer, hypertension and diabetes.

“We must invest in collection of data, informed decision-making and implement visible and evidence-based control programme for these non-communicable diseases at the country and regional level,” Adewole said.

He said another public health issue is tobacco control and called the West African countries to unite against tobacco.

Others who spoke at the meeting were Director-General of the WAHO, Dr. Javier Crespin and the Vice-President of the ECOWAS Commission, Edward Singhatey.