Top health officials from various West African States under the banner of West African Health Organization (WAHO), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners have begun a three-day cross-border meeting aimed at enhancing a resilient health system through partnership.
The three-day forum, which is being held at the Golden Gate Hotel in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, is basically centered around epidemic-prone diseases, including Malarial and Neglected Tropical Diseases. Speaking at the start of the forum, the Professional-In-Charge of Epidemic and Emergencies of WAHO, Dr. Felicite Chokki, said the Ebola virus disease (EVD) revealed the urgent need of reviewing various national health priorities. She pointed out that the EVD also gives reasons for the critical importance of increasing inter-sectorial partnership to strengthening resilient health strategies. The WAHO official stated that the Ebola virus showed that an epidemic can easily cross over from one country to the other, and as such, the need to build an international effort cannot be over emphasized. “There is a need to adopt a joint effort in addressing both local and international challenges,” added Dr. Chokki. The Disease Prevention Control Advisor at WHO, Dr. Peter Clement, said WHO seeks to draw the attention of regional governments and stakeholders to improve cross-border management of public health emergencies including malaria and neglected tropical diseases. “This meeting provides a unique opportunity to improve cross-border collaboration beyond the landscape and lens of epidemic prone diseases to include malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs),” Dr. Clement said. He indicated that the meeting is an outcome of one the 18 recommendations that were endorsed at the 9th Mano River Union (MRU) conference hosted by Liberia in October of this year, which called for the reviewing of the progress made on NTDs control, challenges and solutions to mitigate potential gaps. “This further re-enforces the importance of this meeting as diseases have no boundaries and importantly, epidemics or other diseases cannot be managed in silos if we have no control to eradicate them,” he noted. The WHO official pointed out that lessons learned from the recent Ebola virus disease outbreak created the momentum to strengthen cross-border conversations as evident by several cross-border coordination meetings and interventions. He noted the creation of enabling information sharing platforms, data sharing mechanisms, sharing of expertise, laboratory resources and medical supplies strengthening core areas and most importantly mobilizing resources for cross-border activities are areas concentration that need to be accelerated. Dr. Kabla Amihere, the Chief of Mission of the International Organization on Migration (IOM), said the meeting is evidence that Liberia and other countries in the region especially in the Mano River Union countries are still recovering from the outbreak of the Ebola virus and other diseases that threatens and breakdown public health systems. “Ebola was an enemy that fought this nation and claimed the lives of many Liberians including health workers, something we feel very sad about.