West African leaders to combat emerging health threats

 More than 200 policymakers, development partners, public health experts and advocates from West Africa would gather on November 8 - November 11 in Dakar, Senegal to highlight the importance of addressing emerging health threats using a ‘One Health’ approach.

A statement issued by WHO AFRO office and copied to the Ghana News Agency said the approach was one that takes into account the inextricable link between the health of humans, animals and their environments.

The statement said an estimated 75 per cent of infectious diseases that have emerged over the past decade have been caused by pathogens that spread to people from animals or animal products.

It said trends like globalisation, urbanisation and climate change made it easy for these ‘zoonotic’ diseases to transfer to humans and spread quickly around the world.

“The recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa is a prime example of this; a single case of the virus in a remote village, likely contracted through an infected animal, ultimately spread between more than 28,000 people, including in urban capital cities of six West African countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

“West Africa currently faces outbreaks of other zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza in Poultry in Nigeria and Rift Valley Fever in Niger, as well as other public health threats, such as the appearance of Zika virus in Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau.

“At the upcoming West African Regional Conference on One Health, regional and global leaders will discuss strategies for predicting, preventing, detecting and responding to emerging health threats across the region by collectively addressing the health of people, animals and the environment. Ministers responsible for human health, animal health and wildlife from 17 West African countries would participate,’’, it said.

The statement said the first three days of the event would consist of technical meetings in which health officials and technical personnel would focus on next steps for integrating One Health approaches into existing regional and country-level systems and programmes.

It said at the Ministerial Meeting on the last day, attending ministers for human health, animal health and wildlife would put forth a communiqué to guide future action for the West African sub-region.

“This event is being hosted by the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission – including its West African Health Organisation and Regional Animal Health Centre (RAHC) – the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention”, the statement said.

GNA

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