By Uche Amunike
The West African Health Organisation, WAHO, has made the Enugu State Medical Diagnostic Centre, one of the beneficiaries of its laboratory strengthening programmes presently funded by the German government.
Speaking during the first day of the three-day conference richly attended by all the ECOWAS member states and declared open by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state, the Director-General of WAHO, Stanley Okolo mentioned that the laboratory strengthening programs are in the spirit of taking ECOWAS to the grassroots and stressed that the programs included those that were being funded by community levy and their partners.
He hoped that Enugu state will grab the opportunity of being included in West Africa’s chain of regional reference laboratories which are actually created to detect and respond to outbreaks and epidemics.
He admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 9,000 people in the West African region, adding that the conference was a historic one as it was the maiden regional meeting ever being held in Enugu, the former capital of the old Eastern region.
He also stated that it was the first time a physical meeting of the Programs Committee was being held during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that 644,521 cumulative cases of COVID-19, 9,464 deaths and 24,410 active cases have so far been recorded on the ECOWAS region.
He cited that because of the challenges caused by the pandemic, the WAHO 2022 budget will be extensively discussed during the three-day conference so as to reflect on the challenges faced by the region during the pandemic, the lessons learnt and also the need for post-pandemic recovery.
He also explained that the plans and programs of 2022 and details of activities held in 2021 will be discussed at the conference, adding that participants will be engaged in the development of WAHO’s strategic plans for the next five to ten years, as well as their ambition 2025/2030 which is the project being led by the managing partner, The Tony Blair Institute, TBI, who are supporting the DG in communications, strategy development and delivery.
Governor Ugwanyi, who declared the conference open was represented by the Commissioner of Health, Dr Emmanuel Ikechukwu Obi.
He stated that the state government has been consistent in developing critical health infrastructure, both in the urban and rural areas and advised West African countries to work together in order to checkmate disease outbreaks in the region, as the collaboration will help in contributing to the achievement of the goal of creating an Economic Union of West Africa, according to Article 3 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty.
He expressed his appreciation to WAHO for making Enugu centre for the program while encouraging the assembly to focus on the greater objectives of the organization, especially as it touches on Endemic Disease Research; Training; Information Management; Quality Control for Laboratories; Vaccine Production; Eradication of Drug Dependency and Abuse; Human Resources for Health; Emergencies; Collaboration; Health Technology; Cooperation and Conventions, as well as Health Services and Infrastructure.
He urged them to discuss the way forward on how this region will come out of the pandemic stronger, better ready like never before, to withstand any such global health security challenge in future.
In his response, Chairman of the occasion, Mr Emmanuel Kontor from Ghana called on participants to take the meeting seriously, especially as it was clear that the COVID-19 affected various ECOWAS countries.
He appreciated WAHO for their support to member countries during the peak of the pandemic.