The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called African countries attention to the importance of using the “One Health approach” in order to more successfully prevent and manage public health emergencies and threats.
One Health is an approach to designing health systems and services in ways that account for the link between human, animal and environmental health.
A statement signed by WHO Africa Regional Office and copied to the Ghana News Agency said on November 8- November 11, the WHO Africa Region, in collaboration with global and regional partners, would convene the West African Regional Conference on One Health in Dakar, Senegal.
“More than 200 policymakers, experts and civil society advocates will discuss the importance of designing health systems and programmes that incorporate the One Health approach in order to contain diseases in animals and the environment before they spread to humans and become global crises.
“Ministers responsible for human health, animal health and wildlife from 17 countries are expected to attend,’’ it said.
The statement said in recent years, 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases have been caused by pathogens that spread to humans from animals or animal products.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa began when a child came into contact with the virus, likely through an infected animal.
It said from that single interaction, the virus then spread to more than 28,000 people and 10 countries, including five capital cities, killing more than 11,000.
West Africa is now grappling with outbreaks of other zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza in Cameroon and Nigeria and Rift Valley Fever in Niger, as well as vector-borne threats such as a Zika virus strain from Brazil that is responsible for current outbreaks in Cabo Verde and in Guinea-Bissau.
The statement said West African Regional Conference on One Health would provide a powerful platform for West African leaders to discuss strategies for addressing health threats across the region.
It said it would also give them the opportunity to commit to implementing the One Health approach at the country and sub-regional levels.
“Health security and emergency preparedness are issues too big to be handled by any one stakeholder, organisation or country – and too important for us to wait any longer,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“This conference will be an opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and obstacles, identify resource gaps and, ultimately, create a sub-regional roadmap for preventing and combating zoonotic diseases and other public health threats using the One Health approach.
“One Health will play a key role in the implementation of WHO’s Regional Strategy on Health Security and Emergencies 2016-2020, which was agreed upon at the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this past August.
The West African Regional Conference on One Health is being co-hosted by WHO in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the WHO for Animal Health, ECOWAS, which included the West African Health Organisation and Regional Animal Health Centre, the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.