The West African Health Organization, WAHO, revealed on Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over nine thousand lives in the West African region.
This disclosed at the beginning of a three-day conference in Enugu, being attended by all the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, member-states.
In his opening speech, Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General, WAHO, said 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.
He disclosed 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 cases in the ECOWAS region.”
Okolo said 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.
“It is particularly important to strengthen the capacity of WAHO to discharge its mandate of improving health outcomes across the region and supporting the Member States.
“The need to fully operationalize WAHO’s agency in Abuja, the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (ECOWAS RCSDC) is urgent, acute and critical.”
He further stated that WAHO as the parent body had continued to plug the gap by leading on the pandemic response at a time when the RCSDC remains nascent.
He was, however, quick to add that “this should not be an excuse for ECOWAS to delay any further the lifting of employment embargo as it pertains to this critical institution for assuring health security in region.”
“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” .he Said
He said as part of efforts to combat the pandemic, WAHO “have provided several cargo plane loads of critical medical supplies to all member states including PPEs, laboratory reagents, ventilators and oxygen concentrators.”
While declaring the conference open, the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, represented by the commissioner for health, Dr. Emmanuel Obi said the State had continued to develop critical health infrastructures both within the urban areas.
While commending WAHO for choosing Enugu State for the programme, he urged the body to strategize and make the region become more stronger in health delivery service after COVID-19 recovery.