West African Leaders to Combat Emerging Health Threats

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 Martins Ifijeh

Not less than 200 policymakers, development partners, public health experts and advocates from West Africa and around the world will gather on the 8th to 11th November to highlight the importance of addressing emerging health threats using a ‘One Health’ approach – one that takes into account the inextricable link between the health of humans, animals and their environments.

According to One Health organisers, an estimated 75 per cent of infectious diseases that have emerged over the past decade have been caused by pathogens that spread to people from animals or animal products, with trends like globalisation, urbanisation and climate change making it easy for ‘zoonotic’ diseases to transfer to humans and spread quickly around the world.

“The recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa is a prime example of this; a single case of the virus in a remote village, likely contracted through an infected animal, ultimately spread between more than 28,000 people, including in urban capital cities of six West African countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone,” the group said.

At the upcoming conference, regional and global leaders will discuss strategies for predicting, preventing, detecting and responding to emerging health threats across the region by collectively addressing the health of people, animals and the environment. Ministers responsible for human health, animal health and wildlife from 17 West African countries will participate.

The first three days of the event will consist of technical meetings in which health officials and technical personnel will focus on next steps for integrating One Health approaches into existing regional and country-level systems and programmes. At the Ministerial Meeting on the last day, attending ministers for human health, animal health and wildlife will put forth a communiqué to guide future action for the West African sub-region.

This event is being hosted by the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission – including its West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and Regional Animal Health Center (RAHC) – the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).