Only a third of world’s countries is ready for public health emergency – WHO

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Healthcare workers prepare to remove the body of a man suspected of carrying Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia, July 17, 2015. REUTERS/James Giahyue

Experts meeting at the first World Health Organisation Africa Health Forum in Kigali, Rwanda are considering the state of global preparedness against disease amidst concern that only a third of the world’s countries is prepared to be able to respond to public health emergencies.

It comes amidst the impact the 2014 Ebola outbreak had on the three most-affected countries and the world—the epidemics that have come before then and a couple more after, said Dr. Rebecca Martin, director of the Center for Global Health at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a teleconference from Kigali, Martin said, “All of these…bring up the opportunities to have vaccines and diagnostic tests, the importance of reporting diseases as soon as they occur and where they occur, and the importance of implementing preventive measures as soon as possible, are all still challenges we are dealing with today, and that need to be addressed in any outbreak that we see.”

“These public health emergencies, they are disruptors to local, regional, and global markets. They affect economies, and the importance of people to understand that health security is national security,” said Martin.

At least 15 African countries have conducted joint external evaluation for their centres for disease control, letting in an external team to assess whether they are prepared, need improvement or if certain activities are lacking.

Around 11 more are scheduled this year. Nigeria’s recently concluded joint external evaluation found low disease response capacity.

Speaking of the report of the evaluation this June, health minister Isaac Adewole said, “There are very few greens and a lot of reds in the reports. However, this will be a challenge to spur us to greater heights, as I assure that the reports will be presented at the Federal Executive Council for immediate response.”

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