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World Bank Grant to Help ECOWAS Countries Prevent Epidemics with Better Disease Surveillance

October 31, 2013

OUAGADOUGOU, October 31, 2013 – The World Bank will help the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to improve the region’s disease surveillance and response system across 15 member countries with a new grant of US$10 million through the Africa Catalytic Growth Fund.

In 2008-2009, 14 of the 15 ECOWAS countries experienced at least one outbreak of meningitis, and half experienced two outbreaks. The number of meningitis cases tripled during this period. The project will build the capacity to identify outbreaks at an early stage and take action at both the local and regional levels.

Disease outbreaks take a heavy toll across West Africa, spreading across borders and putting millions of lives and livelihoods at risk,” said Trina S. Haque, Sector Manager for World Bank Health, Nutrition and Population in West and Central Africa. “Reporting and containing these outbreaks will help people in disease-prone areas to protect themselves and their children from diseases that can be deeply debilitating, or even fatal.”

To be implemented by the West African Health Organization, the project will help countries to establish or upgrade their disease surveillance capacity and adopt the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Strategy laid down by the World Health Organization and the Africa Regional Office (WHO/AFRO).

The West Africa Regional Disease Surveillance Capacity Strengthening Project will train laboratory workers and other health staff to use a common framework to report and respond to the first signs of deadly diseases like meningitis, yellow fever, Lassa fever, cholera, polio, measles and dengue in their districts.

The project will also offer Masters-level training in disease surveillance for district health staff, and on-the-job training in laboratory techniques and disease surveillance for health workers at the frontline.

“Through this grant, we are helping to build the foundation of an efficient multi-country disease surveillance system that we hope will be developed much beyond the four-year term of this project and supported by more partners in future,” said Enias Baganizi, Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank and Task Team Leader for the Project.

The persistence of outbreaks and epidemics in our region is an unacceptable reminder that inadequacies still exist in the capacity of our member countries’ public health system” said Dr. Placido Cardoso, Director-General of the West African Health Organization. “This new partnership with the World Bank represents our unwavering regional commitment to controlling major diseases and improving health outcomes.” 

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