ABUJA – The President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, has said COVID-19 pandemic should not overshadow all the other public health challenges facing the region.
Brou said this on Friday in Abuja, during the 22 Ordinary Session of Assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS.
Brou said that besides the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic due to appearance of Delta variant, which some countries are experiencing, there has been cases of Ebola haemorrhagic disease and Marburg virus disease in some other countries.
According to him, the fight against endemic diseases and epidemics therefore remains a burning issue within ECOWAS.
”However, we must redouble our efforts to improving other health indicators in the region, particularly, maternal and child health, fight against communicable, non-communicable, neglected tropical diseases and universal health coverage to mention but a few,” he said.
Brou said that the Public health challenges in the region are colossal and the expectations of the populations are very high.
“It is all together, by showing commitment, innovation, determination and solidarity that we will succeed in meeting them.
“This is what I would like to urge you to do, and I do not doubt for a moment that we will succeed,” he said.
Brou said the negative impact of this pandemic on our countries, in terms of economic disruption and social imbalance, is immense and its effect is being severely felt by valiant populations, especially the most vulnerable.
“The health of the West African populations, who have already paid a heavy price to the pandemic, is priceless, and that the fight against this scourge constitutes for ECOWAS a constant concern and our greatest challenge of the hour,” he noted.
He said that the ECOWAS/WAHO stand resolutely by the side of the countries and assured that with their help and that of partners, these efforts would continue as long as necessary to put an end to the pandemic.
The ECOWAC President, however, said that holding of the Assembly of Health Ministers was of vital importance in the life of the Organisation.
“It provides you with an ideal forum to discuss institutional issues related to its operations and take stock of the programmatic achievements as well as the budgetary execution for the period under review,” he said.
The ECOWAS President added that the regional integration in health is at the crux of WAHO’s mandate and was part of the essence of the Founding Fathers’ vision.
“Epidemics control is a fundamental pillar of the mandate and this is the right opportunity to commend the important and tireless efforts deployed by your Organisation in the fight against this pandemic.
To date, these efforts have been translated into concrete multiform items of support for countries, both technical and financial, through: “The distribution to countries of substantial supplies of medical materials and equipment, in particular biological diagnostic kits (PCR), personal protective equipment and sample transport kits.
“Strengthening of surveillance at country level, through support for capacity building of laboratories in the region, including training, which has significantly increased the number of laboratories able to carry out COVID-19 diagnostic tests and also, for many of them, to carry out sequencing of the virus.
“Online training of more than 2,827 health workers on various topics such as infection prevention and control, risk communication, contact tracing, case management, laboratory diagnosis and psychosocial support,” he said.
Brou said the establishment and regular running of exchange platforms with all the countries of the region at both technical and ministerial levels had enabled WAHO to ensure effective and efficient coordination in the strategic response to be provided within our common region in the fight against the pandemic.
He commended the sacrifices made by Member States in the fight against the pandemic, despite the undeniable financial constraints represented by the difficult security context.
Brou said he was also pleased that many countries in the region have been able to receive supplies of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX initiative.