Ghana has made tremendous progress towards the development of a National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS), following the completion of a Joint External Evaluation (JEE) process.
The JEE, which is a critical component of the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, was conducted last year as a voluntary, multi-sectoral process to assess the country’s capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to public health risks irrespective of their origin.
The purpose of the JEE was, therefore, to measure the current status and progress made in achieving the IHR capacities, and most importantly, to enable the country to identify the critical gaps that exist in the public health security systems.
It would also help in prioritising opportunities to strengthen capacities for preparedness and response, and engage current and prospective donors and partners to effectively target resources.
To finalise the development of the country’s NAPHS, a four-day workshop on Tuesday, opened in Accra, to review and cost what has so far been done, to enable effective resource mobilisation to achieve the obligations prescribed under the IHR (2005).
Dr Franklin Asiedu Bekoe, the Head of Disease Surveillance, at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), welcomed the participants, expressing his excitement about the presence of all the technical area, as well at the external technical assistance teams from the WHO headquarters, the AFRO and CDC at the meeting.
The NAPHS, he explained, was a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, collaborative, time framed plan with the objective of strengthening the health system capacities to prevent, detect and respond to all hazards of health emergencies within the country thereby minimising both the health and economic consequences.
When finalised, the NAPHS would among other things, provide a consolidated insight of baseline national capacities, and build on existing mechanisms and processes, ensure a holistic approach to health emergencies, and avoid duplication and standalone plans.
Mr Michael Adjabeng, the IHR Desk Officer at the Ghana Health Service, further indicated that some gaps were identified during the assessment, and the Action Plan was being developed based on the identified gaps to improve the country’s health security.
Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa, the WHO Country Representative, affirmed the commitment of his outfit to continued support and collaboration with the government and all development partners by providing the required technical assistance to the health sector, to ensure good health and the wellbeing of all people.
He commended the Government for demonstrating its commitment through the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service and their key Departments and Agencies, as well as partners, to build and maintain strong national capacities and structures for preparedness and response to any public health threats.
The Action Plan, he said, emphasised the importance of multisectoral approach for health security, and at the same time took into account important issues such as Health, which looked at human-animal-environmental interface, and Antimicrobial Resistance.
“As you are aware, during the 71st World Health Assembly in May this year, Member States endorsed the 13th General Programme of Work for WHO 2019-2030 which has three main related goals”, saying these were to ensure that one billion more people benefitted from Universal Health Coverage, better protection from health emergencies for one billion others, and one billion more enjoying better health.
“I see the development of the NAPHS and its implementation as being critical to Ghana’s contribution to the GPW 13 goals”, he said.
Dr Kaluwa said public health emergencies were prevalent in the African Region, citing an average record of about 100 of such experiences per year.
The WHO was currently monitoring 55 ongoing events such as the Ebola situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Measles in Liberia and Hepatitis E in Namibia among others.
He underscored the importance of being prepared and always being ready to respond for a public health emergency in a timely and effective manner.
Dr Kaluwa therefore encouraged all stakeholders and partners to contribute wholeheartedly to the NAPHS finalisation and validation process to foster ownership and multi-sectoral coloration at all levels.