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Gambia commemorates WAHO Day

Jul 10, 2015, 9:43 AM | Article By: Isatou Senghore-Njie

The Gambia yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 28th Anniversary of the establishment of the West African Health Organization (WAHO) by the heads of state and government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.

The theme for the anniversary this year is: “The contribution of mobile phone in the management of epidemics at the community level”, with a view to catching people’s attention, member states and the international community on the importance of the use of information and communication technology, in general, and mobile phones especially, in the mobilization for the prevention and response to epidemics.

Delivering his statement on the occasion, Dr. Omar Sey, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, said this year’s WAHO anniversary coincided with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of ECOWAS.

He paid tribute to ECOWAS founding fathers, as their vision to make their region a cohesive bloc through regional integration is still relevant.

Minister Sey noted that significant credit must go to them for championing the cause of a common vision, with the creation in 1975 of ECOWAS.

The past four decades in the life of ECOWAS were punctuated not only with difficulties and challenges, but also successes among which they could mention the creation of several specialized institutions and agencies like WAHO working towards the realization of this vision, he said.

“WAHO through the implementation of its priority programmes, including epidemics control has been contributing significantly to regional integration and playing a key role in ensuring the free movement of people and goods,” Minister Sey went on.

Sadly, he added, epidemics including the Ebola virus disease in 2014 led to the closure of some borders and consequently continues to hamper trade and tourism activities in the sub region.

According to Sey, free movement of health professionals is real thanks to the human resources development programme, which has been promoting mutual recognition of certificates and qualifications in order to bridge the gap in terms of health human resources in some countries, and recruit specialists to fill in the gaps in other member states.

He said, similarly, medicines registration harmonization is likely to offer pharmaceutical industries of various member states an opportunity to benefit from a larger regional market.

Minister Sey explained that WAHO, through all these actions aimed at the population’s health, is contributing to the economic growth and development of the region, for it is a well-known fact that a healthy population is a source of higher productivity and production; thus creating more wealth.

Minister Sey also revealed that, as a matter of fact, according to a 2013 study, mobile phones afford African populations, of which 60 per cent live in rural areas, an opportunity to access multiple services in the field of health.

According to him, the same study showed that over 73 per cent of Africans have a mobile phone, and with the establishment of multiple GSM operators in The Gambia, the proportion of mobile holders is even greater, thanks to the conducive and vibrant environment under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh.