The West African Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak of 2014 – 2016 was unprecedented from the start, given that the disease was not endemic among humans in the region. In addition, the scale was unlike any other EVD outbreak recorded. The reasons why the outbreak was so pervasive include the shared fundamental weaknesses in the most affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone: weak health systems and services; poor governance; a history of civil unrest; and, chronic poverty.
Towards a Solution
In response to the crisis, UNDP worked to support recovery and help the most affected countries ‘build back better’, including through this project, which focused on supporting South-South cooperation at the regional level by building the capacity of West African institutions and training West African experts and practitioners through workshops conducted by these institutions.
The project, Supporting and Strengthening Sub-regional and post-Ebola Medical Surveillance and Socio-Economic Recovery Initiatives in West Africa, sought to tackle socio-economic issues and address public health preparedness needs that arose following the 2014-2016 EVD outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Specifically, it worked to improve regional institutions’ operational capacities and support regional early warning responses, mechanisms and policies. This was done through partnerships with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) in Accra, Ghana.
The project led to the systematic transfer of good practices and knowledge within the ECOWAS region overall through WAHO, in cross-border areas in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Liberia, through the Mano River Union (MRU), and from NMIMR, a research institution based in Ghana, to technical experts in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. These institutions based in West Africa have gained support to carry out activities pertaining to capacity-building sessions, thus developing their pedagogical strengths and expertise, and also imparted valuable knowledge to public health experts across the region on a wide range of topics, from disease surveillance to information management and risk communication.
The methodology used to”Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” and ”Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” included support to enable WAHO to participate in and organize capacity- building workshops to equip health practitioners with the necessary skills to provide health services, manage health data accurately to make good decisions, and promote the prevention of health threats within all levels of society. Concretely, the project funded an expert to develop a database of regional health experts who would compose the rapid response team that would respond in the event of a health emergency in any of the ECOWAS member countries. This database is now active and managed by WAHO. It also conducted needs assessments with the Institute Pasteur of Dakar and UNDP on the health and reference laboratories in the three EVD epicentre countries and Côte d’Ivoire. Based on recommendations made following their assessments, UNDP was able to procure laboratory equipment for five laboratories (one per country and two in Sierra Leone), thus strengthening national level disease monitoring capacity in the immediate and long term.
Through the project, WAHO also developed the capacity to mobilize experts with advanced know- how from across Africa to train its health experts on issues such as scaling up emergency coordination in the event of a health emergency and conducting risk communication in crisis settings. This has increased the accountability of all partners involved. In exchange, the approach has also strengthened WAHO’s capacity to assume its responsibilities and meet the expectations of its beneficiary countries.
In similar but perhaps more innovative fashion, support from NMIMR for a biomedical research institute based at the University of Accra, Ghana sought both to enable its experts to train experts in Ghana and to encourage the Institute to adopt a more regional approach. Given its technology and experience, the potential exists to expand its added value across West Africa. The project sought to assist the institute in this regard, facilitating a training of 36 experts in geographic information systems for enhanced disease surveillance and in applying methods to support disease risk assessment and outbreak control.
Throughout the course of the project, 398 experts from all 15 ECOWAS countries and beyond benefited from 11 training courses and workshops over the 24-month project duration. Through these trainings, many of the participants transmitted what they learned to their respective governmental structures and during subsequent disease response episodes, thereby transferring further their knowledge and supporting sustainable outcomes.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 3.3, 16.a
Countries/ territories involved: Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone
Supported by: Government of Japan
Implementing entities: UNDP
Project status: Completed
Project period: 2016- 2018
- Mr. Armand-Michel Broux, UNDP, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ms. Jessica DuPlessis, UNDP, Jessica.email@example.com