Prior to the West Africa Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak, under Article 54 of the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005), countries were self-reporting annually their implementation status to World Health Assembly. However, several IHR review committees and various experts’ panels have recommended that, in addition to annual reporting, there is a need for after actions reviews, simulations and exercises and importantly, voluntary independent joint external evaluation (JEE).
The JEE is an innovative type of evaluation that is built on transparency and trust. It allows countries to identify the most urgent needs within their health security system; to prioritize opportunities for enhanced preparedness, response and action; and to engage with current and prospective donors and partners to target resources effectively. The host country conducts an internal self-assessment that is validated by a team of external experts to come up with the final assessment consensus scores.
In this vein, The Gambia this week joins 22 other African countries that have already successfully undertaken the voluntarily Joint External Evaluation to determine their International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) core capacities.
This Joint External Evaluation is intended to assess the Gambia’s capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to public health threats independently of whether they are naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental. The purpose of the external evaluation is to measure the Gambia’s current status as a benchmark for assessing future progress in achieving and sustaining IHR core capacities. Global health security is a shared responsibility that cannot be achieved by a single actor or sector of government.
Its success depends upon collaboration among the health, security, environment, agriculture and other relevant sectors. This external evaluation is a voluntary initiative of the Gambian Government and is supported by the World Health Organisation (Country, Regional and Headquarter levels). The JEE is multi-sectoral, transparent and open in terms of data and information sharing.
Importantly, the JEE allows several stakeholders to come together from different sectors during the self-assessment and the external evaluation.
A critical next step for the Gambia over the coming months is to take the opportunity offered by the JEE to develop, cost, implement and monitor and evaluate a national action plans for health security. Such national action plans should be financed from both domestic and external sources.
The successful finalization of the JEE process will help the country develop a National Action Plan on Health Security that will enable it build its IHR core capacities for effective containment of public health threats in the country.