…As Gov. Ugwuanyi seeks greater collaboration among ECOWAS member-states

….Declares three-day conference open

The West African Health Organization (WAHO) has announced Enugu State Medical Diagnostic Centre, Enugu, as one of the beneficiaries of its laboratory strengthening programmes funded by the German Government.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of a three-day conference in Enugu, on Monday, being attended by all the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member-states and declared open by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, the Director-General of WAHO, Prof. Stanley Okolo, disclosed that the laboratory strengthening programmes, which include “both those funded by community levy and those funded by our partners” are in the spirit of taking ECOWAS to the grassroots.

“I hope that Enugu State will maximize the opportunity of being included in West Africa’s network of regional reference laboratories created for the sole purpose of early detection and response to outbreaks and epidemics”, Prof. Okolo added.

The Director-General of WAHO revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over nine thousand lives in the West African region, pointing out that the conference was historic as it was the first time such regional meeting was holding in Enugu, the former capital of the old Eastern Region.

He said it was also “the first meeting of the Programs Committee being held physically during the COVID-19 pandemic”, revealing that “as at yesterday, 26 September 2022, we had 644,521 cumulative cases of COVID-19 in the region, 9,464 deaths and 24,410 (active) cases in the ECOWAS region.”

Prof. Okolo stated that in the view of the challenges posed by the pandemic, “the WAHO 2022 budget being discussed over the next three days will therefore be reflective of the challenges we have faced in the region due to the pandemic, the lessons learnt, and the need for accelerated post pandemic recovery”.

According to him, “Over the next three days, we will present some activities undertaken so far by WAHO during the year 2021, and our plans and programs for 2022.

“We will engage all of you on the development of WAHO’s Strategic Plan for the next 5-10 years, our Vision 2025/30, a piece of work which is being led by our management partner the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) who are supporting the Director General in strategy development, delivery and communications.”

Declaring the conference open, Gov. Ugwuanyi, represented by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Emmanuel Ikechukwu Obi, pointed out that the state government has continued to develop critical health infrastructure both in the urban and rural areas.

The governor called for greater collaboration among West African countries in checkmating any outbreak of disease in the region, stating that the Enugu State government recognizes the importance of the overall objective of WAHO “as we all, acting together with other Community Institutions, contribute to the attainment of the ideal of the creation of an Economic Union of West Africa, in accordance with Article 3 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty”.

While appreciating WAHO for choosing Enugu for the programme, he said: “Specifically, I know that you will in this meeting focus on the laudable objectives of this organization as in its founding protocol that touches on Endemic Disease Research, Training, Information Management, Quality Control for Laboratories and Vaccine Production, Eradication of Drug Dependency and Abuse, Human Resources for Health, Health Technology, Health Services and Infrastructure, Emergencies, Collaboration, Cooperation and Conventions.

“I call on you to kindly deliberate, as I am sure you will, on how this region will emerge from this pandemic, stronger, better and able to withstand any such global health security threat in future.

“We have a public sector driven economy with the state government as the highest single employer of labour, a situation however that this present administration is gradually changing.

“Our giant strides (with representations in the health sector) have attracted international recognition and awards such as the Rockefeller Foundation’s recognition of Enugu among most Resilient Cities in the World in 2015”.

In his speech, the Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Emmanuel Kontor from Ghana enjoined the participants to be serious with the meeting considering the effect of COVID-19 on various ECOWAS countries.

He thanked WAHO for its support in the areas of technical support and some necessary supplies to member countries during the peak of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

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