Dr Toga Gayewea McIntosh, Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, has noted that the recent unprecedented outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease which claimed over 10,000 lives, exposed the weakness in disaster preparedness of the sub-region.
He said a UNDP 2015 Report showed that the Ebola outbreak was the longest, largest and deadliest ever with dire socio-economic impact on the affected countries.
“We have come to realize that the sudden Ebola epidemic outbreak exposed the inadequacies of the health care systems and response mechanisms in West Africa and in particular, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” Dr McIntosh stated.
Dr McIntosh made these remarks at a West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative (WADPI) Conference, under the auspices of the ECOWAS, in collaboration with the Kofi Annan International Peace-keeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO).
It is being supported by the Centre for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine, the United States Air Forces Africa, and sponsored by the US Africa Command (USAFRICOM), and Operation United Assistance Transition Disaster Preparedness Project.
The WADPI Conference dubbed: “A Road Map for the Future,” seeks to review WADPI and its impact in the sub-region, share ideas, framework, policies and best practices in disaster preparedness.
Dr McIntosh noted that: “Ebola also pointed to our collective short comings to pursue pre-emptive actions against preventable catastrophes that could hindered our development efforts.
“In spite of the initial uncertainty in some quarters that surrounded the implementation of this initiative, we are proud to say today that all the efforts made and resources allocated have given us a huge success.
“We can say today without hesitation, and with a high degree of pride, that the goal of WADPI to ‘Build a pool of trained subject-matter experts’ is being met”.
He said this achievement was made possible due to the strong commitment demonstrated by all concerned parties.
“Our fight to better position the region to absorb the shocks of disasters in future has gotten a vital injection.
“We must build on the gains made from this vital partnership for sustainable peace, security and development, Dr McIntosh said.
He said the call was for continuity and greater partnership to adequately harness the gains achieved so far.
“On our part, the ECOWAS Commission shall spare no efforts in the prevention and management of disasters in the region.
“Not only that, we will stop at nothing and will go to any length to further strengthen West Africa’s health delivery system in partnership with all people of good will,” he said.
He said: “We shall intensify our efforts towards strengthening the implementation process of the various frameworks such as: the ECOWAS Humanitarian Policy and Plan of Action, the ECOWAS Disaster Risk Reduction Policy and its Plan of Action, the ECOWAS Humanitarian Response Mechanism and the ECOWAS Model National Disaster Management Agency.”
Mr Mark Owen Woyongo, the Minister of Defence, lauded the US Government for sponsoring the WADPI training programme, declaring that it would adequately prepare countries in the sub-region towards any future disaster outbreaks.
He called for effective collaboration between countries in the sub-region in the area of disaster response and management.
Major-General Obed Boamah Akwa, Commandant of the KAIPTC, attributed the success story of the WADPI programme to the collective efforts of all stakeholders.
“We would all like WADPI go further and expand beyond our present achievements,” he stated.
Dr Alex Deprez, USAID Mission Director for West Africa, praised the ECOWAS Commission for its dynamic role in conflict prevention and management in countries like Burkina Faso, Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
Dr Barbara Sotirin, Deputy Director of Programmes J5, USAFRICOM, described WADPI as one of the most successful African home grown solutions to challenges facing the continent.
She gave the assurance that the US Government would continue to support the sub-region in the area of disaster prevention and management.
Mr Frederic Fritz Baffour, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Defence and the Interior, said WADPI was in line with the government’s policy towards disaster management and response.
Brigadier-General Francis Vib-Sanziri, the National Coordinator of NADMO, in a speech read on his behalf, called for the extension of the WADPI training programme to cover the five other nations who would not participate within the six-month period.
He said in order to ensure the sustainability of the WADPI programme, participating countries must organize regular local training programmes for their disaster management and prevention officials.
The WADPI conference is being attended by delegates from the 15-member ECOWAS states, and representatives from key disaster management organizations across Africa.
Since its launch six months ago, the WADPI programme has trained over 800 people from Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, the Gambia and Cameroon.
WADPI has also trained more than 30 staff from the ECOWAS Commission in disaster management and rapid response. GNA