A post-Ebola workshop on improving disease monitoring capacities and early warning systems in West Africa has opened in Accra with a call on countries to strengthen systems of prevention and early detection of emerging public health threats.
“Investing in Health Security should be seen by all as a major contribution towards sustaining our development goals and not to leave anyone behind,” Dr Badu Sarkodie, the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Services, said.
He said there was the need for continued vigilance and readiness to respond to emerging outbreaks at all levels, especially at the borders.
The workshop is being hosted in Accra by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) for officers of health information management, diseases surveillance, technical health promotion, port health, veterinary and clinician as well as community health officers from the three 2014 West-African Ebola affected countries namely; Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Health officials from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are also participating in the workshop that would help build their personal and their countries’ capacities to monitor diseases, especially at border districts.
The overall objective of the workshop is to improve abilities of countries to rapidly identify diseases of public health importance and outbreak potential.
It is also to help use Geographic Information System for enhanced diseases surveillance especially at the border areas and apply tools for disease risk assessment, vulnerability mapping and effective risk communication towards preparedness and outbreak control.
Dr Sarkodie, who was speaking at the opening of the four-day workshop, said global threat of infectious disease outbreaks, such as avian influenza, meningitis and yellow fever, spreading from person to person and across borders, posed a serious public health risk to all countries.
He said the Ebola outbreak in the West African sub-region and other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases had revealed that Africa remained inadequately prepared to face the challenges with public health emergencies.
Dr Sarkodie said: “Although Ghana was spared the Ebola Virus Diseases (EVD) epidemic that affected West Africa, it was ranked the highest at risk after the affected countries. The country has been having frequent cholera outbreaks, experiencing one of its worst in 2014 with more than 28,000 cases and 218 deaths.
“CSM is endemic in the three regions of the north as well as adjacent districts and we experience periodic outbreaks,” he said.
He said the vulnerable nature of the countries, especially low and middle income ones including Ghana, made it necessary to put in place adequate capacity for the implementation of international Health Regulations to prevent the disease.
He said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Project on; “Supporting and Strengthening Sub-regional Post-Ebola Medical Surveillance and Socio-Economic Recovery Initiatives in West Africa,” under which the workshop fell, was designed to provide technical assistance and support at sub-regional, national and grassroots level to the three EVD affected countries and Cote d’Ivoire.
Dr Sarkodie said Ghana would continue to support regional and continental efforts for the management and control of emerging disease.
Mr Kaoru Yoshimura, the Ambassador of Japan, said his country, which was providing funds for the capacity building workshop, decided to respond to the outbreak of the EVD as part of the request by governments and international organisations to support the unfortunate situation.
He said Japan had supported the fight against Ebola with over 127 million dollars through 2014 and 2015.
“Fortunately, today, Ebola is no more a talking point, and we are proud of the achievement. It is important for us to take into account the lesson learnt from this outbreak and continue working on the issues to prevent catastrophes in the future,” he noted.
Professor Kwabena Mante Bosompem, the Director of NMIMR, said: “Addressing issues of post-Ebola outbreak strengthens our human resources capacities to address and strengthen the implementation programme in a way that they can truly achieve their objectives in a sustainable manner”.