In March 2015, at the seventeenth ordinary assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS, the creation of a Regional Center for Surveillance and Disease Control was recommended. In May 2015, the Highest Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government approved this recommendation and a Regional Center for Disease Surveillance and Control (ECOWAS/RCDC). In December 2015, two community regulations regarding the setting up and operation of the Regional Center for Disease Surveillance and Control and the establishment of a network for the surveillance of epidemics and infectious diseases in West Africa were adopted by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in Abuja.
This sets into motion the formation of board of directors which comprises among others of six members representing the National Coordinating Institutions of Members states. The Inaugural board meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria between 27th and 28th June 2016.
This regional coordination center was set-up as a post-Ebola initiative to help the sub-region, under the leadership of West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), strengthen preparedness and response against future public health emergencies. It is believed it is with platforms of this nature that such outbreaks as Ebola and the other major health emergencies can be properly prevented and controlled across borders.
As part of the milestone of the establishment of the center, a board was set-up to lead the formulation of policies which will help drive ministries of health of member states as they play their roles as part of the collective efforts in the West African sub region. Therefore the board meeting will have representatives of all ministries of health of 6 West African states representing the ECOWAS 15-member states.
In addition, Nigeria was selected to host and establish the RCSDC using the country’s center for disease control, i.e. Nigeria Center for Disease Control, as a platform for immediate take-off of the Regional center. This means the RCSDC will be operating from within the Headquarters of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control in Abuja, Nigeria.
The choice of Nigeria was based on the country’s successful Ebola response which evidently informed other West African states’ strategies towards the ultimate containment of the outbreak, the human capital base and most importantly leadership commitment. The president of Nigeria, President Muhammad Buhari, is personally committed to this regional framework and efforts towards mitigating and responding to disease emergencies. The Nigerian minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole, is equally committed towards ensuring the Nigerian platform helps achieve successful establishment of the RCSDC.
The acting Executive Director of the RCSDC, Dr. Abdusalami Nasidi, who is also the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, was selected for his role in leading his agency to driving the successful national response back in 2014.
The opening ceremony of the meeting was attended by dignitaries from the Nigerian Senate, National Assembly, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (NFELTP), US Center for Disease Control (US CDC), European Union Commission (EU), Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Red Cross. At the event the honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, shared the dedicated of Nigeria towards the success of the ECOWAS-RCSDC. He declared the meeting open on Monday 27th June, 2016.
The Director General of West Africa Health Organization, Dr. Xavier Crespin, chaired the two-day meeting whose deliberation and outcomes will be published widely for stakeholders’ alignment.
Key activities at the meeting were:
Exchange of Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and West Africa Health Organisation,
Official announcement of Dr. Abdusalami Nasidi as the Executive Director of ECOWAS-RCSDC,
Development of the 2016 – 2017 work plan of the ECOWAS-RCSDC,
An exchange session between the board and young public health professionals, and
The Participants at the Inaugural Board Meeting of ECOWAS-RCSDC were:
Dr Xavier CRESPIN, OOAS/WAHO
Dr Carlos Pedro Faria de Brito, OOAS/WAHO
Dr Abdusalami Nasidi, Nigeria
Dr. Samba Ceesay, The Gambia
Dr. Badu Sarkodie, Ghana
Dr Placido Monteiro Cardoso, Guinee Bissau
Dr Lamine KOIVOGUI, Guinee
Dr Abdoulaye Bousso, Senegal
Dr Daniel EKLU, CEDEAO
Mr. Richard Awunyo, OOAS/WAHO
Mme Savage Ami Ibrahim, OOAS/WAHO
Maître Ely Diallo, OOAS/WAHO
Dr. Bakary Sylla, CORDS HQ
Prof. Nigel Lightfoot, CORDS HQ
Dr Karim Tounkara, OIE
Dr Henri Kaboré, CRSA