Ghana on Tuesday joined the sub-region to commemorate the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) Day in Accra, aimed to promote regional integration through health and share the Organisation's activities, plans and challenges with the sub-region.
The mandate of WAHO is to ensure the highest possible standard and protection of health of people in the region through the harmonisation of policies of Member States, pooling of resources and cooperation with one another for a collective and strategic combat against the health problems of the sub-region.
Professor Stanley Okolo, the Director General of the Ministry of Health, said the health landscape in West Africa was currently a mixed one and had a healthier population living longer in 2019 than in 1987.
He said childhood immunisation rates were also high with all countries being polio free, however, the sub-region still faced recurrent epidemics such as Lassa fever, yellow fever, and meningitis.
Too many of the women in the sub-region still died during childbirth, while many children did not live beyond their fifth birthday, he said, adding that malaria had been eliminated in several parts of the world, but was rampant in the region, being responsible for about four out of five deaths in children under the age of five years.
Globally, 11 countries accounted for over 80 per cent of malaria cases with India and 10 countries in Africa, five of which were in West Africa, Prof Okolo said.
"Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and strokes are the leading causes of death in West Africa," he added.
Prof Okolo said the fact that the sub-region imported 80 per cent of the medicine it needed was a call on member states to prioritise the provision of affordable and high quality medicines across the region, preferably through regional manufacturing, which would also contribute to industrialisation and employment.
WAHO, he said, therefore had a focus to help countries within the sub-region to move from control to elimination of malaria, agreeing on a common drug registration for all 15 countries to attract regional manufacture of pharmaceuticals and operationalisation of a human capital strategy.
"We will continue to engage not only our parliamentarians, but also those of Mauritania and Chad on a project started in 2017 to assure adequate health financing, demographic dividend, and population development policies in our countries," he said.
Mr Alexander Gyedu Yeboah, the Head of Information Technology for Health Training Institutions under the Ministry of Health, said as part of the activities to achieve the mission of WAHO, stakeholders from the sub-region went through a training at Abuja on how to collect data on all health training institutions into one database.
He said the reason was to enable all involved countries to easily access data on health issues in all countries to know the facilities and programmes they had that could be tapped when necessary.
He said the step was undertaken because some West African countries were able to produce health professionals, while others lacked health professionals.
Mr Yeboah explained that, it was therefore their objective to let the involved countries support each other with health professionals, health programmes and training, and resources.
Giving an example, he said, with an outbreak of a disease in one country, the database would enable the country to know where it could seek for professional or logistical support.