By Sharon Atieno

With the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region being confronted with more than 100 health emergencies annually, there is need for enhanced emergency preparedness and operational readiness for public health emergencies.

It is for this reason, that the World Health Organization Emergency and Ministry of Health staffs from around 21 countries in East and Southern African ( ESA) region are meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 4th to 8th April, 2022.

The main objective of the workshop is to increase the knowledge and skills of the participants on basic principles of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, operational readiness, and International Health Regulations (IHR) Monitoring and Evaluation processes for Public Health Emergencies.

The workshop will cover three main areas including Emergency Preparedness and Operational Readiness in Africa and Regional priority public health interventions, IHR monitoring and evaluation processes and Health Emergency Disaster Risk Management.

Dr. Joyce Onsongo

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Dr. Joyce Onsongo, Disease Prevention and Control Officer, on behalf of WHO Country Representative Kenya, noted that despite the 2005 IHR obliging all member states to develop specified core capacities to enhance global health security, no Member State has achieved all the required IHR capacities.

“This remains a major concern as most countries remain largely inadequately prepared for public health emergencies,” she said.

Dr. Onsongo stated that national preparedness to timely detect emerging or epidemic-prone diseases and effective response mechanisms demand solid and available technical expertise at the WHO country offices and ministry of health, adequate financial resources and investment in public health systems.

Additionally, she said, “Emergency Health Preparedness reflects the capacity of institutions- public health authorities health systems and emergency response bodies- to detect, report and respond to outbreaks.”

Thus, Dr. Onsongo called on countries to conduct IHR monitoring and evaluation to identify gaps and develop and implement concrete action plans to close the gaps and ensure their people are protected from health emergencies.

Dr. Miriam Nanyunja (left) with Dr. Joyce Onsongo (right) during the training

Observing that COVID-19 revealed significant gaps in emergency preparedness and health systems resilience, Dr. Miriam Nanyunja, Acting Team Lead WHO Emergency Preparedness and Response-Hub Nairobi said, “ It is evident that we must invest more in emergency preparedness in order to protect more people from the effects of such emergencies when they occur.”

Further, she noted that there is need to strengthen the health systems and make them more resilient and able to continue to provide the needed services amidst such emergencies.