West African Scientist

West Africa Unites to Strengthen Public Health Institutes

Leaders from West African countries have come together to prioritise the strengthening of national public health institutions in the region.

The leaders, in a groundbreaking move, converged at a workshop organised for Directors of National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) in West Africa, on Monday in Abuja.

The meeting aimed at exchanging best practices, fostering collaboration, and devising strategies to expedite NPHI development in the region, with support from entities like WAHO and Africa CDC.

The Authority of Heads of State and Governments at the 47th ECOWAS meeting held in Accra in December 2015, adopted the resolution establishing the ECOWAS Regional Center of Disease Surveillance and Control, based on lessons learned and recommendations from the 2014-2016 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak.

This resolution pledged the establishment of a regional network of National Public Health Institutions to strengthen the capacities of countries to prevent, early detect and respond effectively to the main public health threats.

To date, four main face-to-face regional NPHI Directors meetings have been organised in addition to periodic virtual consultations which are organised by the team of the Regional Center for Disease Surveillance and Control (RCSDC).

Dr. Jide Idris, Director-General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), emphasised that the move was crucial to bolstering resilient public health systems to address emerging health threats, in line with the Africa CDC’s New Public Health Order agenda.

Idris said that recognising the importance of building resilience and driving positive change in the face of health challenges, the collaborative efforts aimed to enhance capacity, resources, and expertise within these institutes.

“This united front demonstrates a commitment to advancing public health and improving the well-being of populations across West Africa,” he said.

Dr Melchior Athanase, Director-General of WAHO, said the gathering was a testament to collective commitment to advancing public health in West African region.

Athanase said that the objectives outlined for the meeting were both comprehensive and pivotal in addressing the evolving landscape of public health, fostering collaboration, and driving positive change within the communities.

“The sharing of best practices and lessons learned from established NPHIs in the region is a valuable opportunity for mutual learning and growth. It reflects the spirit of cooperation and knowledge exchange that defines our collective pursuit of excellence in public health initiatives. By engaging in open discussions, we have the chance to fortify our existing foundations and identify innovative approaches to address current and anticipated challenges faced by countries in the development of NPHIs,” he said.

Crucially, he said that the discussions would also centre around actions needed to accelerate the establishment and strengthening of NPHIs in West Africa.

“As leaders in public health, your insights and experiences will play a pivotal role in shaping the future trajectory of NPHI development in our region. Furthermore, exploring the roles of WAHO, Africa CDC, and other strategic partners in supporting this acceleration will foster a collaborative environment, ensuring that our shared goals are met with unified efforts,” he said.

Dr Tajudeen Raji, Acting Deputy Director, Africa CDC, said that the organisation was building a resilient health system for Africa, focusing on strengthened public health institutions.

Strengthened public health workforce, expanded manufacturing of vaccines, and diagnostics, among others, he said, were therapeutics.

So also, were increased domestic resources for health security, and respectful and action-oriented partnerships.

Raji said that Africa CDC values support from partners to strengthen health systems and support health security in Africa through shared expertise.

The countries included Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, as well as organisations like Africa CDC, US CDC, and IANPHI.