World Bank Grants $10 Million to Support WAHO’s Epidemics Control and Disease Surveillance Efforts in ECOWAS Countries

Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, November 03, 2013 --( At a high-profile event in Bobo-Dioulasso, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), the World Bank and other partners officially launched the West African Regional Disease Surveillance (WARDS) project to address the threat of epidemic prone diseases.

Through a series of activities planned over the next four years, the $10 million project funded by the World Bank seeks to strengthen disease surveillance and response capacity of ECOWAS member countries.

Specifically, it will offer Masters-level training in disease surveillance and on-the-job training in laboratory techniques and disease surveillance for health workers at the frontline.

Home to around 300 million people, the West African region in recent years has experienced frequent outbreak of epidemic prone diseases such as meningococcal meningitis, yellow fever, Lassa fever, cholera, polio, measles, and dengue fever.

Between 2008 and 2009, the number of meningitis cases in the ECOWAS almost tripled while measles cases almost doubled from (29,726) in 2010 to (44,623) in2011. Over the same period, the number of cholera reported cases remained high: 46,238 cases in 2010 and 41,344 cases in 2011, with a case fatality rate well above 3 per cent.

The resurgence of these diseases and inability to effectively prevent them is due in large part to weak disease surveillance system in most of the countries.

"The persistence of epidemics in our region is an unacceptable reminder that inadequacies still exist in the capacity of our countries’ public health system to quickly detect and prevent potential epidemic outbreaks," said Dr. Placido Cardoso, WAHO Director-General at the launching ceremony of the project.

"This new partnership with the World Bank and other stakeholders represents our unwavering regional commitment to confront and overcome the challenge posed by epidemic outbreaks," he concluded.

Present at the project’s launching were the Governor of the Hauts Bassins region, Head of the World Bank delegation, WAHO Directors of departments, professional officers and other partners.

Also participating in the ceremony via visioconference were the Chairman of ECOWAS Assembly of Health Ministers who is also Cote d’Ivoire’s Minister of Health and AIDS Prevention, the representative of Minister of Health of Burkina Faso and officials of the ECOWAS Commission.

Created in 1987 as a specialised agency of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) works to offer the highest possible standard of healthcare to populations of the West African region through the harmonisation of policies by member states, the pooling of resources, fostering cooperation between member states and others as well as strategically finding solutions to health challenges facing the region.
West African Health Organisation
Kayode Egbeleye
Advocacy & Communication Officer,
West African Health Organisation,
Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso