ECOWAS has inaugurated a Regional Centre for Disease Control in Abuja to strengthen regional disease surveillance and outbreak response programmes.
The Togolese Minister of Health, Prof. Mustapha Mijinyawa, while declaring the centre open on Wednesday, said the facility would help the ECOWAS region in its efforts at curbing diseases.
The minister noted that ECOWAS member states needed to combine efforts in the fight against diseases in the region.
He added that “no single country can effectively fight diseases because once it crosses the border, it goes to another country.
“Countries have come together to set up this centre because they believe that when countries put their heads together, they can fight diseases.”
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the regional centre would provide platform for effective coordination of disease surveillance in Nigeria.
He explained that “although there are 15 countries in the region, the truth is that half of the population of West Africa is actually in Nigeria.
“We have the responsibility of supporting activities across; why this one is particularly important is that diseases don’t recognise the borders.
“During the Ebola outbreak, it spread very easily across Guinea, Liberia and Sierre Leone. So, we cannot work only with our national borders. We should have a broader perspective.”
He said recommendation for the establishment of the centre was made in March 2015 at the 17th Ordinary Assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS.
He noted that “in May 2015, the highest authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government approved this recommendation and the Regional Surveillance Centre Disease Control (ECOWAS RCSDC) was born.”
He noted that Nigeria was selected to host and establish the ECOWAS RCSDC using NCDC as platform for immediate take-off of the regional centre.
Ihekweazu added that the RCSDC operated from within the Headquarters of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control in Abuja, Nigeria until recently.
“Progress has now been made in the implementation of the ECOWAS RCSDC with the establishment of headquarters in Abuja and commencement of operations in February 2018,’’ he said.