ECOWAS sets up body to control epidemics
The West African Network for Infectious Diseases Surveillance (WANIDS) has been launched in Accra to foster co-operation between countries and facilitate early detection and control of infectious diseases within the sub-region.
WANIDS’ mission is to promote inter-country and multi-sectorial co-operation and co-ordination among national co-ordinating institutions to enable the timely detection and rapid response to infectious diseases and ensure compliance with the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations.
WANIDS was launched under the auspices of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and the Connecting Organisation for Regional Diseases Surveillance.
It was mandated, during the 47th Conference of the Heads of State of ECOWAS, to establish a regional structure for epidemic prevention and control called ECOWAS Regional Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control.
Dr Badu Sarkodie, the Director in charge of Disease Surveillance and Control of the Ghana Health Service, launched the network at the end of a three-day workshop on the Integrated Regional Platform for Collection and Sharing of Health Information, aimed at building the capacity of nations.
Dr Sarkodie commended efforts by WAHO for establishing systems that would work to prevent and control epidemics within the region.
He said diseases would continue to emerge and so leadership ought to ensure that they did not spread beyond where they broke out and controlled well to minimise their infection rate.
“We fail when we are not able to control diseases as they emerge,” Dr Sarkodie said, and gave the assurance that Ghana would continue to support efforts by WAHO to prevent and mount early responses to epidemics.
Dr Laurent Assogba, the Deputy Director of WAHO, said the Ebola epidemic that hit parts of the sub-region few years ago revealed the unpreparedness of the region to fight epidemics and so ECOWAS decided to establish WANIDS to ensure greater co-operation among countries and build their capacities to control such epidemics.
He said the development of WANIDS had been achieved in partnerships with WAHO and the Connecting Organisation for Regional Disease Surveillance through a special support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.
He said the network would enable countries to commit resources towards preventing and controlling epidemics as they struck.
“We are excited to be convening this workshop for the international public, health experts, institutional partners and key stakeholders to share ideas, expertise and best practices while working on developing common initiatives to ensure West African countries are in a better position to deal with major disease outbreaks such as Ebola as and when they occur,” Dr Assogba said.
Dr Mamoudou Harouna Djingarey, the Representative of WHO, said he was hopeful that with the setting up of WANIDS proper systems would be put in place to control and manage future epidemics to stop the havoc such diseases brought.