WHO trains Borno health workers on early warning, alert system

 Dr. Rex Mpazanje

Dr. Rex Mpazanje

The World Health Organization (WHO) has supported the Borno State Ministry of Health (SMOH) to establish Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) by training over 80 health professionals.

EWARS is a WHO disease surveillance, alert and response initiative for early detection and containment of disease outbreaks in humanitarian emergency settings.

The intervention follows WHO’s recent decision to substantively increase support towards addressing the health needs of the humanitarian emergency situation in Borno and three other states in the North East of Nigeria.

According to Dr. Rex Mpazanje, the acting WHO Country Representative, over 3.7 million people are in dire need of urgent health assistance in the affected states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe.

Consequently, one of the most immediate responses for WHO in this emergency is “that of setting up EWARS, to detect and facilitate rapid reaction to suspected disease outbreaks in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps and host communities in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe states,” Mpazanje stated.

“WHO has so far trained 33 Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) and assistant DSNOs, 50 Surveillance Officers and Camp Coordinators from targeted health facilities in Maiduguri, Borno state and will train more health personnel in other states”, he added.

For over six years, the northeastern part of Nigeria faced insecurity that left most health facilities and infrastructure damaged, many health workers either killed or abducted while others fled to areas of safety. This negative fall-out has left millions of people with limited or no access to any basic primary health services, exposing them to risks of diseases and other health complications.

The aim of EWARS is to strengthen and expand the existing national Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system in an effort to reduce the number of cases and deaths due to epidemic prone diseases and other health conditions.

In the first phase, a total of 56 health facilities and 16 IDP camps will be covered by EWARS in five partially accessible local government areas (LGAs) of Maiduguri, Jere, Konduga, Mafa and Kaga. Through this, approximately, 1.2 million IDPs will be covered. The EWARS combines mortality and morbidity surveillance for a total of 17 diseases/health events including all those in the existing national Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response weekly reporting of diseases such as cerebrospinal meningitis, measles and cholera among others.

WHO will also be assisting the SMOH in 16 LGAs to conduct an initial assessment of Health Resource Availability Monitoring System (HeRAMS) in all targeted health facilities in order to establish baseline indicators on the capacity of health facilities to deliver primary health care services to IDPs and host communities.

The results of the assessment will be used to guide the SMOH and partners to appropriately deploy scarce resources and technical support.Meanwhile, the current rainy season coupled with overcrowding, poor living conditions lack of adequate nutrition have placed the IDPs in camps as well as host communities with heightened risk of communicable diseases, such as measles, acute watery diarrhoea and malaria.

Speaking on the importance of training, the Borno State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Haruna Mshelia said that government welcomes WHO’s support “to build capacity of its health workers for early detection of epidemic prone diseases.”

He said that it would help to mount adequate public health control measures in reducing preventable morbidity and mortality among the people living in urban and rural communities of the state.

The Executive Director, Borno Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA), Dr. Sule Mele, who represented the Borno State Health Commissioner, Dr. Harun Mshelia lauded WHO’s efforts. He also urged participants to make use of the training for the good of the people especially the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

“We are grateful to the WHO for this assistance which will greatly improve on the capacity of our health system; to first detect and respond to any health threat and close any existing gaps,” said Mele.

WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations with special interest in international public health.He said that the Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) intervention in the northeast states follows its recent decision to substantially increase support towards addressing the health needs of the humanitarian emergency situation in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states affected by Boko Haram crisis.

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Dr. Rex MpazanjeWHO
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