Support to Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS Region
Title: Support to Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS Region Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) Countries: ECOWAS region, focusing on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; Programme offices in Abuja, Nigeria and Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso Lead executing agency: Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Overall term: 2016 to 2019
While combating the Ebola epidemic in West Africa between 2014 and 2016, fundamental deficits in health policy and in the strategies applied became evident, both in the countries affected and in the international and regional organisations operating on the ground. Basic weaknesses in the health systems, internal political tensions and poor risk communication resulted in a loss of public trust. The spread of the epidemic was also exacerbated by the high level of mobility and cross-border migration. The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), as the competent authority, have a mandate to support the Member States in controlling epidemics. At regional level there are dedicated political and economic structures such as ECOWAS, WAHO and the African Union. Nevertheless, the existing institutions with their resources and processes for epidemic control prove to be inadequate for the challenges of pandemics. The advice given to ECOWAS Member States by the regional institutions and authorities on establishing mechanisms for epidemic control in accordance with the International Health Regulations (IHR) is therefore inadequate.
The ECOWAS Commission and WAHO, together with the Regional Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control (ECOWAS-RCDC), provide Member States with better support in building core capacities in accordance with the IHR.
To improve communication of health risks, the project is supporting WAHO in developing a regional strategy to harmonise the communication of health risks in the region. Prioritised activities are then implemented using up-to-date information and communication technologies (ICT). A virtual platform on health risks, the development of innovative communication approaches by means of an IT competition and a (social) media monitoring system to track information support this process.
Communication and coordination between the institutions in epidemic control are strengthened by developing a regional strategy. Communication channels and contact points of regional and national institutions are established and expanded for both crises and normal conditions. Simulation exercises are used to test and adapt agreed communication procedures. In addition, the structures of the Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) in selected countries are analysed and strengthened as necessary. As part of a collaboration with the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the SORMAS-open (Surveillance, Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System) application is being trialled in Kano State in Nigeria and in Ghana. SORMAS provides effective monitoring of disease outbreaks, and the software facilitates improved data management at all institutional levels.
For staff in the field of epidemic control training courses are being developed and implemented, in eLearning format as well, to provide further education opportunities. WAHO’s Regional Rapid Response Team, which is in the process of being set up, is also receiving support. Regional and national experts can thus be available for rapid deployment in crises, and also to address bottlenecks in the countries outside of times of crisis. The experience of SEEG, the expert rapid response team managed by GIZ, will also be incorporated.
Collaborations are established with KfW as part of the joint development cooperation programme. A further collaboration exists through the MAURICE (Manual on Universal and Outbreak Infection Prevention Control) partnership between the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the NCDC, within the framework of the European ESTHER Alliance for hospital twinning. The partnership is supporting and improving patient safety in the event of an outbreak by compiling a manual on preventing infection.