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Buhari urges ECOWAS countries to embrace global agenda of UHC



President Muhammadu Buhari has urged member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to embrace the global agenda on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The president described UHC as a critical element that required recommitment for increased people- centered investment in sustainable health development.

Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire,
made the call on Friday in Abuja, during the 22 Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS.

Our correspondent, reports that the Ordinary Session of West African Health Organisation, (WAHO), is an annual meeting by the 15 member states.

The meeting is to enable them brainstorm on health-related issues in the region and how the region can surmount future pandemics.

The president noted that by embracing UHC by member states, it would strengthen manpower base in the health sector, infrastructure and laboratory capacities within and across ECOWAS borders.

“And to diagnose and address the critical health issues of maternal, child and adolescent health in the region.”

He stressed that the year 2020 exposed the fragility of global health systems, as it did nationally and regionally with consequences that were still with the region inform of land borders, which remained fully or partially closed.

“In this regards, I wish to also acknowledge the strategic role of the Regional Center for Surveillance and Diseases Control (RCSDC), an agency of WAHO, established by the 47th ECOWAS Authority of Heads of state in 2015.”

“And the urgent need for it to be endowed with requisite human and financial resources to facilitate efficient operations and execution of its mandate as ECOWAS public health institution,” he explained.

Buhari said that WAHO would continue to strive to attain its mission of working for the attainment of the highest possible standard and protection of health in West Africa, through harmonisation of health policies of ECOWAS member states.

“Pooling resources and cooperating with each other and with others, for a collective and strategic push against the health challenges of the sub-region.”

He, however, called on members states not to lower their guards.

“Our vaccines rate is well below global average, due to inequity in distribution. The lesson for us is to seek a good degree of self sufficiency in manufacturing pharmaceuticals and vaccines.”

“We must also endeavour to join in research and development of new products, especially in genomic sequencing,” he called.

The Director General of WAHO, Prof. Stanley Okolo, said one of the earliest decision that was taken by the Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Health for COVID-19 was adopting a proposal that was made by WAHO that the region should have essential health services coordinator and national panels for COVID-19 response.

“It is really critical that we look at how we utilise the lessons of COVID-19 response in our areas to strengthen some of these issues,” Okolo urged member states.

“I am sure that every member state and every member here has been a beneficiary or has seen the response regionally that was undertaken by WAHO.”

”With the support provided to us by our various partners too numerous to mention, including internal raising of funds with WAHO and ECOWAS Commission, we have been able to support countries in their response efforts.”

“We surpassed the target that was raised by the ministers at their COVID-19 planning response meeting in Bamako, Mali, on February, 14, 2020, when they set a target of 51 million dollars as the amount that we should try as much as possible to raise to support the regional efforts.”

“We were able to surpass that but also, to distribute over100,000 of medical materials of over a million items of PPEs, diagnostic materials and that is quite different or separate from what we had already planned in terms of projection of what we are doing to pull the region out of pandemics.”

Okolo said the organisation provided much assistance to member states during the height of the pandemic in the areas of Personal Protective Equipment, (PPE) and diagnostic materials.

He added that the region had made tremendous progress in terms of production of PPEs and supply to member states, however, said there were still areas where the organisation needed to step up against the pandemic.

The WAHO DG, expressed sadness over some recent developments in the region, notable among ”is the unfortunate attacks on women and children in Niger and building collapse in Nigeria.”

Our correspondent, reports that Guinea and Mali were absent at the 22nd Ordinary Session of West Africa Ministers of Health.

Abujah Racheal

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