Ghana's Health Minister, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has asked Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members to work together to strengthen coordination and consultation to mitigate the negative impacts of Covid-19 on the sub-region.
Daily Guide reports that Minister has indicated there should be harmonisation among member states to ensure the consistency of policies and measures implemented in the post-pandemic efforts.
Speaking at the 22nd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Assembly of Health Ministers (AHM) in Abuja, Nigeria, the minister noted that working together would promote the flagship project of free movement, ease restrictions to facilitate the movement of goods, persons, capital and services, while at the same time strengthening health and sanitation measures.
He said a common front should target local production of essential medical products by taking advantage of innovation and new information technologies to improve health systems and promote research and development (R&D) for access to quality, essential medical products.
The Health Minister, who is also the Chair of the AHM, added that ECOWAS needed to strengthen advocacy, policy dialogue and mobilise adequate resources, through sustainable partnerships to ensure food security and nutrition.
He said apart from the health sector, the pandemic has had a heavy toll on the economies in the sub-region, a “situation which threatens to impede our ability to sustain the response effort.”
According to the Health Minister, a recent report by Reliefweb showed that the rate of the spread of Covid-19 in the ECOWAS region, and the restriction measures taken, are draining the socio-economic systems of the member states.
“According to the report, ECOWAS recorded a budget deficit of about 6.4% in 2020 after an increase of 4.7% in 2019 and 2.9% in 2018. This sharp deterioration in the region’s budget deficit is a reflection of a general situation in all the member states,” he said.
“Thus, the resultant economic recession and the swift response of governments to the Covid-19 crisis would have a significant impact on the evolution of public debt relative to GDP of countries. Admittedly, this situation calls for concern as any economic downturn has a direct impact on expected investments in the health sector. This will certainly be disastrous in the midst of a pandemic of this magnitude,” he added.
He noted that the adverse impact, notwithstanding, the sub-region has been successful in containing the virus despite claims by sceptics that Africa did not have the ability and capacity to deal with the crisis, saying “working together, not only have we succeeded in controlling the situation, Guinea, with the support of ECOWAS and development partners, has succeeded in controlling the outbreak of Ebola and Marburg virus disease.”
He said that despite improvement in other health outcomes, maternal mortality is still a challenge in the sub-region, with over 600 deaths per 100,000 live births, and encouraged member states to double their efforts to reduce maternal mortality considerably as the sub-region strives to attain the SDG target of 70 deaths per 100,000 live births.
The meeting discussed, among other things, Intra Action Review on West African Health Organisation (WAHO’s) Covid-19 pandemic response. It also discussed eradication of Neglected Tropical Diseases in the region; recognition of centres of excellence offering Master’s degrees in nursing and obstetrics science in the ECOWAS region; operationalisation of the ECOWAS Regional Medicines Regulatory Agency (ECOMA); compilation of the West African Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the ECOWAS regional health indicators scorecard.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu expressed optimism that the “reports and resolutions will give us a better insight into the huge efforts we have collectively made as a region, to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the other health challenges confronting us.”