Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, the Minister for Health, has called for the digitisation of the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response strategy to enhance disease surveillance and control in West Africa.
The Minister said the digitisation of the strategy should be a necessity as the region worked towards keeping pace with the evolving landscape of global health.
Mr Manu made the call in a speech read on his behalf at the opening of the ECOWAS Regional Surveillance Digitalisation Workshop in Accra on Wednesday.
The three-day workshop assembled health professionals, policy makers, and international partners to discuss measures to strengthen digital surveillance and outbreak management in the region.
The participants are expected to develop a comprehensive digital surveillance strategy for the ECOWAS region at the end of the workshop.
Mr Manu said the COVID-19 pandemic had underscored the need for robust health systems and amplified the call for innovation in the monitoring and response to public health threats.
“We convene at a time when our world is increasingly interconnected, and yet, our challenges in public health surveillance and outbreak management remain daunting,” the Minister said.
He added: “The path to a unified digital surveillance system is complex, with each Member State facing unique challenges and considerations.”
In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), together with its technical partners, adopted a strategy for developing and implementing comprehensive public health surveillance and response systems in African countries, initially called Integrated Disease Surveillance.
The ECOWAS Regional Centre for Surveillance and Disease Control has also been established to strengthen Member States’ health systems and enhance the Region’s capacity for epidemic prevention, detection and control.
In a speech read on his behalf, Dr Melchior Athanase Aïssi, the Director General of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), said the strategy to be developed at the workshop would guide actions and responses to public health threats for years to come.
“The path to a robust digital surveillance system is fraught with challenges. We must navigate the complexities of integrating diverse health information systems, ensure the interoperability of digital platforms, and build the capacity of our health workforce to utilise these tools effectively,” he said.
Madam Ramona Simon, the Deputy Head of Development Cooperation, German Embassy, said the harmonisation of digital surveillance systems in the Region was essential and pledged the continuous support of the German Government toward such actions.
Mr Timothy Dolan, Team Leader, Macro-economic and Trade Section, European Union Delegation to Ghana, called for broader collaboration to build resilient health systems in the Region.