Friday, April 13, 2007

The Mosquitoe Bites the (Regional Integration) Dust...Almost

There I was feeling that HIV/AIDS was one of the biggest killers in Sub-Saharan Africa, until I came across this article in Xinhua about how Malaria kills more than war among military forces of SADC:

The article reveals how:

Malaria remains one of the biggest challenges for military forces in the Southern African region, accounting for more deaths than wars, Zimbabwe Defense Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga has said.

Far from being stuck in a moment of trepidation, I think it makes sense. We get so consumed by the big picture that we forget, sometimes, to attack the little problems. It's, perhaps, like a crime thriller: it's only upon hindsight that you realise the veritable killer was closer than you thought.

But seriously speaking, the article maintains that so serious is the issue that:

[a] first seminar of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) military malaria managers [will take place] in Harare on Tuesday. The seminar, which is running for three weeks, is being held under the auspices of the SADC Military Health Services.

SADC Military Health Services That sounds rather profound. So I did some investigation to ascertain how far SADC had gone in instituting a regional institution specifically dealing with health. I noticed SADC had met last month--under the aegis of SADC Health Minister's Forum, and had decided to recognise tradional medecine in the region.

That article maintains how the SADC Health Forum will:

...also look major problems of SADC health issues such as HIV and AIDS,Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Googling further, I came across references to health protocols, without there being anything concrete on a SADC institution dedicated to health.

Predictably, I atavistically made the comparison with West Africa, which I do know has a West African Health Organisation.

Even before all of that, my parents tell me that back in the good old days of Nkrumah, during the fifties and sixties, the goverment organised regular spraying of the country, so as to kill mosquitoe eggs.

I can tell you that in 2007, it is not just that this has not happened, but it has not happened for several years either!

A few weeks ago, the Accra regional minister I.C.Quaye quipped that mosquitoes did not need visas to enter the country of Ghana.

One of the Ghanaian Saturday papers commented on this:

The statement attributed to the Honourable I.C Quaye in Parliament recently, that mosquitoes do not need visa from him to enter Accra may be amusing, but it is very true.

This is because the mosquito has become a very efficient transmitter of disease, especially malaria and the parasite it transmits has become so adaptive that it makes the control of malaria a very daunting business. As such it can move freely and cause havoc with impunity.

A reference to the spraying was made by Ms Aba Wilmot, the Chief Entomologist of the Ghana Health Service, who maintained:

even though spraying is good, she would like the environmental control bit emphasised to deal with the source of the mosquito. Her belief is that Accra, for example, should be divided into zones and the environment tackled from one zone to the other in a rotational basis.

She went on to call for:

indoor spraying instead of the outdoor one since the outdoor spraying is expensive.

But any large scale operation will require the setting up of a good monitoring system to ensure its success. But this effort must be taken on by the whole of ECOWAS through the West African Health Organisation (WAHO). WAHO is the technical wing of ECOWAS that advises the health ministers of the West African States as well as their heads of states on matters concerning health.

I checked the WAHO website, which does a woeful job of conveying how ECOWAS is dealing with malaria. One sorry sub-site refers to it thus:

The FY2003-2007 Strategic Plan of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) is the product of an ongoing strategic planning process that has been underway since February 2001. Contributors to this process include WAHO’s Directorate General, the Ministers of Health from Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), international donors and consultants, health specialists, and experts in health policy and institutional development. Nine priorities have been identified:

The document may very well be available for download, but let's get real: a document for download and plenty of plans do not a concrete plan make. Come on, WAHO! It is interesting to note, even, that the website, in its attempt to be current, has failed woefully.

This is because under "WAHO today news", you read that news from January was posted on what looks like April 2, 2007!!

I think SADC has the right idea in this seminar, and if ECOWAS has been doing something similar for its citizens and/or for those working for ECOWAS institutions, it has done a bad job. We're in 2007! For how long go African regional organisations have to take their citizens for granted on key issues like these!

Access to vital information like these doesn't need a person being paid thousands of dollars, but committed public servants, or even volunteers.

WAHO has some way to go. It has the advantage over SADC that it's been in existence since 2000. SADC has yet to establish an institution dealing specifically with health in that sub-region. WAHO, and ECOWAS by extension, must not fail its citizens!

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