By Hassan Zaggi
The Director General of West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), Prof. Stanley Okolo, has insisted that the prevention of epidemics across the West African region can only be achieved by the collective efforts of individuals in the region.
He, however, noted that, his organization does not have the capacity to prevent or predict when and where epidemics will happen.
Okolo made the clarification while responding to questions from the journalists at the meeting of the governing Board of the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control (RCSDC), in Abuja.
According to him, the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control, helps to support the individual countries who are the backbone and fulcrum of preparedness for protecting the public.
Speaking on the efforts of individuals in preventing epidemics in the region, Prof. Okolo said: “Let me be absolutely clear, the state we are in today, we cannot say to you that we can totally prevent epidemics, two; we cannot say to you that we can predict where and when epidemics will occur and that will make people aware it is actually what we do as individuals, not as profession.
“The professionals ourselves we will have to prepare, we will have to have surveillance but the surveillance also is from the individuals and is in terms of behavioral change, how people start taking care of themselves in terms of their health.
“That is why at this meeting we also have people from the animal health. Some of these diseases are in the animals and we need to train ourselves and change our behavior to start thinking of what are those practices that we have to make us likely to contract these diseases.
“But in terms of us saying to you that we can abolish it or we can tell you where it can be, no. That is the importance of what is happening here.”
He disclose that WAHO has inserted a camera at the International Airport so that when someone is coming the person is screened within five seconds to know if he has a high fever or other symptoms.
He noted that there are clear evidence of improvement that WAHO has made not only in Nigeria, but across the region.
On her part, the Interim Director of the Regional Animal Health Centre, Vivian Iwa, while stressing the importance of animal health, disclose that research has shown that 75 per cent of diseases emanate from animals.
“Animal health is important. To me, when the animal population is sick, basically, the human population is also sick. If you talk about lassa, it comes from the pest and if talk about rabies , it comes from an animal,” she said.
Speaking, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, reiterated that his Centre is at the forefront in the fight against lassa fever not only in Africa but globally.
He noted that the biggest challenge confronting this part of the world is software , that is “how can we speak together.
“Yes, we have more cases than any other country, but one thing is that we have more population. We have improved our surveillance system so radically and you know the more you look the more you can find,”