The Director-General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Dr. Xavier Crespin, has told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that WAHO, in consultation with authorities at the Ministry of Health, is set to convene a "very big health meeting in Monrovia," next month.
According to the WAHO DG, the meeting, which is expected to be attended by more than 200 health experts and stakeholders of the African sub-region, will be chaired by the President of Togo, Mr. Faure Gnassingbé, who is the Regional Chair on Ebola. This high level meeting, which is expected to be held on November 24, will be co-chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Dr. Crespin made the disclosure yesterday following the formal opening of a two-day meeting to setup the Network of ECOWAS Health Communication Specialists (NEHCS), which is taking place in Abidjan, La Côte d'Ivoire.
The WAHO DG revealed that before the high level meeting, health experts and other major stakeholders, including all of the Ministers of Health and key partners from across the region, the continent and beyond, will gather here for deliberations on what they have to do together to improve the health situation in the region.
Dr. Crespin stated that so far, his institution has been working assiduously to improve the surveillance system and how they can better control diseases in the region.
"We are also now working on how to strengthen a regional surveillance and disease control center. This Center is already in place, but we intend to make it more operational. Also recently in Accra Ghana, we put in place a regional intervention team comprising all the health professionals in the region so that when there is a need in one of our countries, we can immediately as ECOWAS, move in to show our solidarity by assisting and supporting," he added.
He also stated that they will be looking at how they can coordinate resources which come into the region and how they can further strengthen health system capacity in West Africa.
He said the Heads of State and Government in the region had decided that the Regional CDC be headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria, adding: "We already have the building; we already have some of the staff and the budget."
Before he spoke with this newspaper, he had earlier participated in the formal opening of the two-day meeting to set up the Network of ECOWAS Health Communication Specialists (NEHCS), which working session is chaired by Mr. Sorbor George, Director of Communications at the Ministry of Health.
Each ECOWAS member state sent two individuals, including those from the various health ministries and one independent local health journalist.
The WAHO DG urged the independent media to effectively collaborate with them in order to widely disseminate activities of his entity.
He expressed delight over the gathering saying it demonstrates the commitment and willingness of Communication Officers to work with WAHO in order to achieve its objectives.
The WAHO Director General reminded the participants that communication is a significant tool, promising his organization's commitment to support whatever network that will be set up.
Speaking earlier, the Director-General of Health at the Ministry of Health, Côte d'Ivoire, told the gathering that the lack of effective communications during the recent Ebola crisis in the region, shows that there is an urgent need for the Network to be set up.
"So every one of you needs to fully participate in setting up this Network, which will adequately communicate with our population on what is happening in order for WAHO's mission to be accomplished," he said.
The Côte d'Ivoire DG of Health, Prof. Dagnan added: "You are a vibrant channel for the dissemination of vital pieces of information."
For his part, the Deputy Director-General (DDG) of WAHO, hoped that the two-day meeting won't be "just another meeting," but that after it, the Network will effectively communicate with the population.
"I therefore urge you to fully commit yourselves to this partnership with WAHO and that the Network can adequately communicate with the population," Dr. Laurent Assogba, WAHO, DDG, added.
Among other things, the Network is expected to boost the flow of information of WAHO to the local population in member states.
The meeting is a follow up to another that was held in Burkina Faso last year by Communication Officers to lay a foundation for the improvement of media coverage of WAHO programs and activities.
The Ivory Coast meeting is being sponsored by the United States Aid for International Development (USAID).