A statement signed by Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General, WAHO, said since 1987 it worked closely to advance the health agenda in the region.
The statement said WAHO has worked towards improvement in national immunization programmes and investments in malaria prevention strategies, through the excellent initiatives in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The organization is aimed at improving demographic transition in the region; the herculean efforts that defeated Ebola in the region was in collaboration with the Ministries of Health of the 15-Member States of ECOWAS.
“As we mark WAHO Day this year; the sub-region has not been spared from the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world, the lessons of the Ebola epidemic and the support of our partners through various health security strengthening programmes 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,” Okolo 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).
The statement said a Regional Reference Laboratory Network was set up with WAHO support to formalize regular Communication policies and platforms and to ensure there was transparency, early warnings, peer support and mutual respect and trust among Member States.
Since the World Health (WHO) declared the COVID-19 infection a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, WAHO has worked tirelessly to support the region and protect our populations, coordinating communication. The scale and nature of the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in the health systems that undermined response efforts, including; weaknesses in infrastructure, human resources, diagnostic and therapeutic facilities, manufacturing capacity particularly of medicines and vaccines, and deficits in the level of community engagement required to effectively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” Okolo said.
It said the government must rebuild trust with its 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.