Friday, October 05, 2007

Eradicating yellow fever. Sub-regional initiatives under discussion

A five-day workshop on yellow fever control has opened to sensitise and strengthen the capacity of monitoring teams in eight Anglophone African countries to conduct routine Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIAs) against the disease in high-risk districts.

The countries including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Nigeria are deliberating on issues including the strategies for the control of yellow fever and effectiveness of preventive vaccination, the planning and implementation of high quality campaigns and a sub-regional programme of priority for implementation over the next three years.

Dr George Amofa, Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, who read the remarks of Major (Rtd) Courage Quarshigah, Minister of Health, stressed the importance of disease prevention and control in the provision of health services.

He said yellow fever, though preventable by vaccination, had a devastating toll on some countries in the West Africa sub-region, including Ghana over the years and required urgent action towards its total eradication.

Dr Amofa said reports indicated that six out of the seven countries in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa Region, which reported yellow fever outbreaks in 2006, were in the West Africa sub-region.

"Ghana has had its share of the epidemics, with a total of nine confirmed cases between 2005 and 2006, from the northern, middle and southern belts of the country. Three cases were reported in 2005 and six in 2006," he said.

Dr Amofa said there was no treatment for the disease, which had been fatal in 20 to 50 percent of cases, and immunization of the population had been established to remain the main strategy to prevent and control the disease.

He said whereas the whole country was at risk of the yellow fever epidemic, lack of vaccines and operational funds to conduct mass vaccination of the whole population posed a big challenge.

Dr Joachim Saweka, WHO Country Representative, said a similar workshop had been organised for eight Francophone African country teams in the sub-region and that the recommendations from that meeting had been taken into account in the development of the agenda of the current meeting.

He said a standardised approach for the assessment of levels of risk of yellow fever epidemics had already been developed and would be presented to the group for possible adaptation.

Dr Saweka emphasised the importance of building local capacity in the review and adaptation of the methodology for a more sensitive analysis, not only in the countries at high risk, but also in those that were known to have lower probability of experiencing epidemics.

Dr Fenella Avokey, Immunization Advisor, Yellow Fever IVD Unit of the Inter-Country Support Team of WHO/AFRO, explained that countries at risk of yellow fever in the Africa Region had been facing a resurgence of the disease since the 1980's, as shown by the frequent outbreaks, especially in the West Africa sub-region.

Dr Avokey explained that the main objective of the investment was the vaccination of at least 48 million persons in 12 high-risk countries through response or preventive campaigns.

Beneficiary countries including Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra-Leone, Nigeria and Togo, are expected to contribute to the cost of campaign operations.

Accra Daily Mail - Online