The Director General of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), Dr Xavier Crespin, has appealed for the support of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in the local production of pharmaceuticals in the West African region.
Dr. Xavier Crespin explained that the help of Ghana “in reinforcing local capacity to produce our own medicine” is of the utmost importance, as, “from our assessment, we produce only 25% of the medicines we need in our region, which is very weak. Our objective is to increase it to 50%.”
For this reason, the Director General of WAHO has urged President Akufo-Addo to “take the lead advocacy in this area. We need political support from you to help us in terms of taxation, regulation and harmonization at ECOWAS level.”
Dr. Crespin made this known on Wednesday, March 8, when he paid a courtesy call on President Akufo-Addo, at the Presidency, to congratulate him on his election as President of Ghana, and to wish him the best of success throughout his tenure of office.
The WAHO boss, who is on a 3-day visit to the country, noted that Ghana is a major contributor to the ECOWAS Fund, and, as such, it is important to seek her advice in the implementation of key policy initiatives of the regional health body, as “we cannot implement some of key activities without support of Ghana.”
He praised the country’s Universal Health coverage scheme, the National Health Insurance Scheme, which, he said, is being replicated in some West African countries. The area of traditional medicine, he added, is also one area in which Ghana is doing very well, in comparison with other countries.
On the plans put in place by WAHO to deal with pandemics, such as Ebola, he revealed that a regional Centre for Disease Control (CDC) had been established in Abuja, Nigeria, in this regard.
The establishment of the CDC is to ensure that “we are more prepared, in terms of early detection, epidemic surveillance, training of our staff and upgrading their capacity, and research, so we can combat diseases of the nature of Ebola.”
Ghana, Dr. Crespin added, “is serving as the platform for training of staff. The University of Ghana has been chosen for the training of staff in the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (FELTP).
The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) is also training most of our medical staff who are part of the regional intervention team. This means we can mobilise quickly in sending out well-trained personnel in the event of an epidemic outbreak.”
Local pharmaceutical production a priority
On his part, the President Akufo-Addo noted that the production of local pharmaceuticals in the West African region is “a matter we have to pay maximum attention to”, explaining that “there is absolutely no reason why we cannot develop the capacity (to produce our own medicine).”
The President told Dr. Crespin that one of the priority industrial projects to be undertaken by his government would be the local production of pharmaceutical products.
He urged WAHO boss to place greater great emphasis on the processes for the control of malaria, which, he said, “continues to be a debilitating disease” in West Africa and on the continent.
President Akufo-Addo noted that in many parts of the world where malaria has been completely eradicated, even before the development of effective medication, one of the key strategies adopted was effective vector control, adding that Cuba had developed such a technology.
He, thus, urged WAHO to seek Cuban support for the construction of biolarvicide factories in West Africa to help eradicate malaria.
President Akufo-Addo assured Dr. Xavier Crespin of Ghana’s continued commitment to the West African Health Organisation.
“We take our membership of ECOWAS and WAHO seriously, as was evidenced in the Ghanaian medical assistance that was provided during the outbreak of Ebola. We even had the decision of my predecessor, who had the courage to go into Guinea and Sierra Leone, at the time when everyone was boycotting them.
These are all marks of Ghana’s solidarity with our brothers and sisters in ECOWAS, and that is what is animating us in supporting the work that you are doing,” he added.