Epidemiologists meet in Accra to discuss surveillance of diseases

Epidemiologists from WHO Africa and Eastern Mediterranean regions meet in Accra to discuss surveillance of diseases in the two regions

01 February 2002 -- Epidemiologists and Experts meeting in Accra to assess progress made in the implementation of the UN funded Project on strengthening surveillance and response for vaccine-preventable and epidemic prone diseases, have called for effective documentation to enable national programs and their partners have useful evidence based on field experience in the implementation of the project.

Such documentation they also noted could be an effective advocacy tool in mobilizing further assistance and support for strengthening the surveillance system and to enhance program implementation within countries.

These recommendations came at the end of a five-day meeting attended by 60 delegates from the UNFIP projects in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry and Mali in the WHO Africa Region and Southern Sudan in the Eastern Mediterranean Regions. Other experts attending the meeting came from the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, WHO/AFRO in Harare and WHO/EMRO in Egypt, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The objective of the meeting is to review progress and plan for the UNFIP project on Strengthening surveillance for vaccine preventable and epidemic prone diseases for the participating countries. The UNFIP Project aims at building national communicable disease surveillance and response systems using the integrated disease surveillance and response strategy.

The experts called on countries to document some of the achievements of this project as case histories demonstrating innovative approaches and best practices as well as the efficiency in the functioning of their surveillance systems.

They recommended the establishment of dynamic mechanisms such as a functional national coordinating committee that would meet regularly to share information on progress with the IDSR Implementation, and the performance of the surveillance system as a whole.

Records of the activities of this committee should be used as one of the tools for monitoring progress with project implementation, they said. They also recommended that countries work out with their technical partners, appropriate tools of self-evaluation, taking into account the indicators of progress already defined for the project.

In the area of laboratory networking, the experts advocated for the sharing of laboratory surveillance information with other laboratories in the World Health Organization.

In a welcoming speech to open the meeting, Dr. Melville George, WHO Representative said the project is a timely intervention especially as countries in the region are faced with new emerging and re-emerging diseases. He said the strengthening of epidemic and laboratory surveillance should be the main Defence against the international spread of communicable diseases.

Dr. George said the need for surveillance, epidemic preparedness and response is therefore very crucial particularly in maintaining the significant gains with the vaccine preventable diseases. He add that the common approach of Integrated diseases surveillance will help in addressing cross country issues, minimize duplication of scarce resources and help to use in a better way, countries' limited laboratory and epidemiological skills and resources.

The meeting was opened on behalf of the Minister of Health by, Dr. Sam Adjei, Acting Director General of the Ghana Health Service.

For more information please contact the Health Information and Promotion Officer in the Office of the Representative, 
World Health Organization 
P.O. Box MB 142, 
Accra, Ghana 
Tel (233) 21 763918/9, Fax (233) 21 763920, 

e-mail who [at] whoghana.org, whoghana [at] africaonline.com.gh