In wake of Ebola, West Africa adopts new disease control


Countries across West Africa have endorsed a landmark agreement to tackle zoonotic diseases and similar public health threats under the One Health approach.

It comes amidst concern about the threat of zoonotic diseases, which originate in animals and is transmitted to humans, including Ebola.

‘Disease outbreaks and public health crises – many of which began in animals – have taken lives and livelihoods, severely impacted our industries and economies, and taken a serious toll on our already-stretched public health workforces,’ said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

‘With so much at stake, the world simply cannot afford to take a crisis-by-crisis approach to health security. Strong systems and coordinated efforts are needed – both within and between countries – to detect, report and control the spread of diseases that affect animals and humans.’

The One Health approach calls for policymakers and health practitioners to consider the inextricable link between human, animal and environmental health when designing public health systems, research and programmes.

Ministers of health, environment, wildfire, agriculture from 16 West Africa countries endorsed a communique binding their respective countries to One Health in Dakar on Friday.

It is seen a step toward implementing the WHOs Regional Strategy on Health Security and Emergencies 2016-2020.

75% of disease linked to animal

Nearly eight in 10 diseases have originated in animals or animal products in recent years.

Ebola in its first-ever outbreak in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people and crippled health systems in the worst-affected countries.

It is believed it spread to a boy in rural Guinea from an infected animal.

‘West Africa is currently tackling outbreaks of several zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza in poultry in Cameroon and Nigeria and Rift Valley fever in Niger, as well as vector-borne public health threats, such as the recent emergence of the Zika virus strain from Brazil in Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau,’ according to a statement.

‘These diseases impact not only health, but also food security and economic security.’

While Ebola cost Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone nearly US$600 million in lost gross domestic product, avian influenza has cost the region tens of billions of dollars since 2013.

One Health

The One Health approach commits governments to set up ‘robust national mechanisms for intersectoral coordination and partnership to facilitate the implementation of the existing global and regional initiatives, better harmonisation and sharing of information among animal, human and environmental health sectors’.

It also requires governments to:

  • allocate funding in their budgets for One Health activities
  • participate in subregional hazard and risk assessment and identification of common priority diseases and their drivers for both human and animal health sectors by conducting national risk assessments;
  • Enhance collaboration between projection, early warning and surveillance networks for human health, animal health and food safety; and environmental monitoring
  • Enhance national and subregional alert mechanisms for common priority outbreak-prone diseases in both human, animal and environmental health sectors;
  • Routinely share surveillance information through coordination mechanisms across sectors, countries, partners and international bodies as appropriate and promote the use of electronic platforms.

By Judd-Leonard Okafor. This story was sourced from the Daily Trust website.


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