The Director General, West African Health Organisation (WAHO), Prof. Stanley Okolo, says no fewer than 644,521 cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) have been recorded in West Africa cumulatively.
Okolo said this on Monday in Enugu during the 2022 Programmes Committee Meeting of WAHO.
He also said that 9,464 persons had died in the West African subregion as a result of the pandemic while there were 24,410 active cases as at September 26.
He said that the essence of the meeting was to review, amend and validate the programmes that WAHO would undertake in the coming year.
“Over the next three days, we will present some activities undertaken so far by WAHO during the year 2021 and our plans and programmes for 2022.
“We will engage all of you on the development of WAHO’s Strategic Plan for the next five to 10 years,” he said.
Okolo said that the organisation had been at the forefront of the regional pandemic response since the outbreak of the pandemic in West Africa in February 2020.
He said that COVID-19, which had manifested in three surging waves, had devastated lives and economies.
“We were the first region in Africa and indeed the first health institution in Africa to bring all the ministers of health together to agree a regional approach to the evolving situation,” he said.
He said that WAHO had provided several cargo plane loads of critical medical supplies to all member states, including Personal Protective Equipment, laboratory reagents, ventilators and oxygen concentrator.
He said that WAHO would through its laboratory strengthening programme fund and strengthen the Enugu Diagnostic Centre which had yet to be completed.
“I hope that Enugu State government will maximise the opportunity of being included in West Africa’s network of regional reference laboratories created for the purpose of early detection and response to outbreaks and epidemics.
“Our priority actions for 2022 are in the areas of strengthening prevention and control of communicable diseases and strengthening of regional pharmaceutical production,” he said.
Okolo also listed other priority areas to include capacity building, maternal and child health and development of accountability and information tools.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has called on WAHO to use the programme meeting to deliberate on how the region would emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger.
Ugwuanyi, who was represented by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Emmanuel Obi, said that it was necessary for the West African region to develop the capacity to withstand future global health threats.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that WAHO is the health institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).