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Scales Up Action On Animal-To-Human Diseases - WAHO To ECOWAS   
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At a time when Ghana has recorded A3 Influenza in three senior high schools (SHSs), leading to the quarantine of some 400 students, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) has charged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to prioritise the interplay between animal and human health, as well as the environment.

Director-General of WAHO, Professor Stanley Okolo, who made the call, stressed that infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, which are transmitted between animals and humans, spread very fast and kill many people within a short time.

According to him, providing quality healthcare for animals would translate into healthier human beings.

13 Animal-to-human diseases kill 2.2m people each year

Diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, such as bird flu and tuberculosis as some researchers have found 13 o such diseases are responsible for 2.2 million human deaths every year.

One Health for better public health outcomes

Speaking at an event to climax the fourth Annual One Health Day, held in Lome, the capital of Togo, he charged ECOWAS members to commit to ‘One Health', which is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.

WAHO was established by the heads of state and governments of ECOWAS in 1987 as a specialised agency with the mandate to provide the highest health benefits to its populations.

Urgent action needed

Prof. Okolo cautioned that humans should not wait to the point where such diseases threaten the existence of humanity before acting.

Prioritising animal healthcare

In Africa, where people rear animals at home for commercial reasons, he said the need to prioritise animal healthcare is more urgent.

Emergency preparedness

He reiterated the urgent need for countries to prepare for emergencies to prevent economic, human and other losses.

Recurrent epidemics

Prof. Okolo reminded countries that the sub region was still faced with recurrent epidemics such as Lassa and yellow fevers, which calls for urgent action.

WAHO’s responsibility

Prof. Okolo noted that WAHO’s responsibility is to make sure that countries are brought together, challenged, given support, as well as promote the right things that would give them that epidemic preparedness.

Increased awareness creation

He called for increased awareness creation on the fact that diseases may emanate from animals and transmitted to humans.

Health system challenges

The expeditious spread of transmissible diseases in West Africa is accelerated by the limited capacities of individual country health systems for efficient surveillance, early detection and rapid response to infectious disease outbreaks.

ECOWAS is hotspot for emerging infectious diseases

West Africa is both a hotspot for emerging infectious diseases and a region where the burden of zoonotic diseases is particularly high.

Increased frequency of human-animal diseases

In this region, emerging and re-emerging diseases at the human-animal-ecosystems interface are occurring with increased frequency.

42 Out of 55 disease outbreaks took place in West Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that of the 55 registered disease outbreaks that occurred in Africa over the last decade, 42 took place in West Africa.

Contagious diseases that cross borders easily

These include highly contagious diseases that cross borders easily and have the potential to rapidly evolve into pandemics.

Working together in dealing with emerging diseases

Dr. Binta Diallo Tidiane, World Health Organisation (WHO) Resident Representative in Togo, emphasised the importance of working together in dealing with emerging diseases.

Adopting a single approach

She noted that since diseases have been transferred from animals to humans, adopting a single approach to deal with the events was critical.

According to her, the WHO in 2017 set up the Global Health Security Programme to tackle emerging and re-emerging diseases since pandemics are ever becoming prevalent.

Joint effort between human, animal and environmental health

The Director of Africa Region for the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Dr. Karim Tounkara, stressed that a joint effort to tackle human, animal and environmental health was required to effectively deal with emerging diseases.

Pathogens move freely

According to him, the fact that pathogens move freely calls for well-coordinated action.

Antimicrobial resistance pose challenges
He pointed out that antimicrobial resistance is a challenge that must be tackled head on.

Source: Peacefmonline.com

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