Unprecedented New Organizational Reforms for WHO in the African Region Announced

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Director for Africa announced Monday four new flagship programs for the region over the next two years, including a major push on adolescent health and the creation of regional emergency hubs.

She also announced that WHO country offices in the African region will be held accountable to a mandatory set of performance deliverables over the next two years as part of the next phase of an ambitious reform program begun in 2015 in the wake of the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

“At the start of my tenure two-and-a-half years ago, I committed myself to instituting reforms at WHO in the African region,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the organization’s Regional Director for Africa, speaking at a side event at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. “I’m proud of what we have achieved as part of the Transformation Agenda in that time frame. Now it is time to implement the next phase of changes to better improve the health of people in the African region.’’

Following the implementation of the Transformation Agenda, there has been significant progress in the effectiveness, timeliness and efficiency of actions in support of countries in WHO’s Africa region. For example, WHO was key to the ending Ebola virus disease in West Africa and controlling a large scale urban yellow fever outbreak in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, responding quickly to the polio outbreak in Nigeria and organizing sub-regional Ministerial Declaration as a public health emergency in 2016.

WHO has also conducted risk-mapping of epidemics in the region for evidence-based preparedness
and training over 180 experts on outbreaks and emergencies management, endorsing of the Addis declaration on Immunization on 31st January 2017 by head of states and establishment and effective functioning of the Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) targeting onchocerciasis among others.

In addition, each country office must commit to seven country-specific deliverables. “Our objective is to mobilize all WHO staff in the region toward common goals to boost results,” said Dr. Moeti. “At the end of two years, we want to be able to measure our contribution toward improving the health of each and every African through our support of each country’s own efforts.”

Dr. Moeti launched the Transformation Agenda in 2015 to re-establish WHO’s credibility and health leadership in Africa. The reform program is a vision and a strategy for change aimed at facilitating the emergence of “the WHO that the staff and stakeholders want.”

Over 100 public health emergencies occur each year in the African Region. A second flagship program will establish sub-regional emergency hubs over the next two years. Each hub would house a team of emergency experts who would be geographically closer to emergencies and able to respond more quickly to support member countries in their region. Each hub will be expected to be familiar with the likely emergencies in their area, with the team members also conducting preparedness activities with regional governments.

“We are seeking continuous improvement to our organization so that we deliver the very best evidence-based health care support to the countries and people of the African region,” said Dr. Moeti in Geneva. “Our priorities are clear and our vision is focused.”

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