WHO scales up implementation of integrated disease surveillance tools in Africa

The World Health Organization Health Emergencies program (WHE) will revitalize the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) Taskforce that will guide use and scale-up of the revised IDSR guidelines and tools in the WHO African Region.  
In that regard, WHE convened a three-day regional meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, that offered an opportunity for countries to invigorate their national IDSR taskforces. The meeting enabled participants to share achievements, best practices and innovations, challenges, and future plans for IDSR in the African region. 

Subsequent taskforce meetings will be opportunities for partners to engage in useful dialogue on IDSR while building stronger surveillance and response systems in the WHO AFRO member states. This will enhance global health security. The taskforce is comprised of national governments, agencies and professional organizations.

Opening the meeting, the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng noted that disease surveillance and response are key to improving health systems in Africa. “The revitalization comes at a critical moment for the region as it has just dealt with a series of public health emergencies with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as the most critical”, she said.    
Dr Aceng highlighted the need for the taskforce to address the emerging public health needs and prevent the occurrence of disease in the region. She also acknowledged the support from WHO and applauded the work of WHE, in addressing public health emergencies in Africa.

For the last 20 years, IDSR has provided a framework for improving disease surveillance and response capabilities in the WHO African Region. “The critical role IDSR plays in enabling country health systems to detect disease outbreaks and strengthen their responses is important thus the need to scale up”, said Dr Zabulon Yoti, the Acting Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program at WHO Regional Office for Africa.

The WHO Regional Office for Africa with support from partners have designed guidelines and tools to provide countries with technical elements necessary to strengthen IDSR across all levels.

“As an epidemiological practice, disease surveillance and response improves the flow of surveillance information to monitor spread of disease, evaluate the effectiveness of control and preventive measures, support planning, and allocation of resources in the health system”, said Dr. Miriam Nanyunja, the Disease Prevention and Control officer who spoke on behalf of the WHO Representative in Uganda.

So far, 43 of 47 Member States have adopted the IDSR technical guidance 2010, with 31 completing all the processes of IDSR implementation. Additionally, 37 countries produce regular epidemiological products. Since 2010, over 23,567 public health workers have been trained on IDSR. In 2016, a total of 3,720 out of over 5,579 districts in 47 countries submitted weekly data on notifiable diseases.

Despite the progress made to strengthen national public health surveillance and response systems, few countries have established the mechanisms and resources needed for integrated surveillance and timely response to public health events. In that respect, countries committed to stepping up IDSR to improve disease outbreak detection and response. 
The meeting brought together IDSR focal person from 47 member states, development partners and United Nations agencies.

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