KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY AMB. DR. VICTOR BOCKARIE FOH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REP OF SIERRA LEONE, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE ONE HEALTH PLATFORM AT MIATTA CONFERENCE HALL
FRIDAY 23RD JUNE 2017
About three weeks ago, on the 1st June this year, we were in the Northern Provincial Headquarter Town of Makeni to launch the Integrated Maternal Child Health Week. During that occasion, we also launched the Campaign for the Mass Distribution of over FOUR MILLION Long Lasting Insecticide-Treated Mosquito Nets to the people of this country. At that ceremony, I reminded all present that the Campaign for the Distribution of the Nets was part of the Second Phase of our Recovery Priorities for Health. At that forum, I also underscored the fact that there was still work to be done to strengthen our Health Sector in, among other things, preventing future epidemics and in saving our population from preventable health-related diseases and deaths. Our Recovery Priorities, I emphasized, represented our investment in our people.
Today, I am delighted to be invited to be part of another history-making event of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. It is with great pleasure as I join previous speakers to welcome you all to the launch of the ONE HEALTH PLATFORM in Sierra Leone. By this Launch, we are taking another giant step towards maximizing our healthcare delivery system. By this one giant step, we would now be able to identify, diagnose and prevent or cure diseases that are transmitted from animals to human beings and vice versa. This is certainly a useful endeavour, and I must congratulate the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and Partners for taking us one step further to a country free of the threat of what is referred to Zoonotic Diseases.
Also worthy of note is the fact that by becoming a member of One Health Platform, we are enhancing our Partnership at the International stage and together with our Partners, taking the Global Health Security Agenda to a productive and mutually beneficial level.
My Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, in the last three decades, over Thirty (30) new human disease causing organisms have been reportedly identified. Seventy-Five percent (75%) of these disease causing organisms in human are of animal origin. This is a disturbing development to the human race, particularly for developing countries, where challenges in our healthcare delivery systems persist.
Given the close animal-human interaction in Sierra Leone, the threat of zoonotic disease is real, and that is one reason why the Health Service Delivery system occupies a pivotal Pillar in our Agenda for Prosperity.
I need not remind you all that the “One Health” approach requires effective partnership, collaboration and coordination between and within institutions responsible for human and animal health, and those responsible for environmental health sanitation. Rewarding partnerships, good collaboration and coordination’ and the effective use of skilled human resources are fundamental requirements, if we are to move our healthcare delivery systems to a more productive and people-centred level. This is true for all other human endeavours!
Like many other disease causing organisms, I am told that the causative agents of these zoonotic diseases are constantly evolving. These periodic mutations have not only seen an increase in the number of new infectious Zoonotic diseases, but also, have posed considerable challenges for the treatment of these diseases. However, we are pleased that the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is working closely with other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies and their Partners to institute measures to combat the diseases, including their variant forms.
As a country, we now have an Inter-Ministerial One Health Committee, with multi-sectoral One Health Coordination and Technical Committees already established. In order to facilitate and enhance this inter-departmental partnership, a Memorandum of Understanding will shortly be developed between the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and other relevant Institutions. We are pleased to note that at the International front, the International Health Regulations have provided us with a legal framework for such Partnerships and collaboration.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, with the “One Health Platform” to be launched shortly, we are certainly on the right path to implementing the One Health Approach.
Mr. Chairman. This One Health approach will be achieved by pursuing three broad strategies, as follows:
i. We must continuously build and enhance our capacity for zoonotic disease prevention and control, particularly in the animal sector that has traditionally been under-resourced.
ii. We must encourage and emphasize effective Partnership and collaboration among animal health, human health, and environmental sectors in areas of common interest.
iii. We must conduct purposeful research at the human-animal-ecosystem interface so as to fill gaps in the understanding of the burden and mechanisms of transmission, prevention and cure of zoonotic diseases.
All three strategies have no room for complacency!
Let me end by thanking all our Partners that have supported this initiative financially and with their technical expertise. It is our hope that together, we will continue to support the One Health Platform, so that we will meet the targets we have set for ourselves.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my honour, on behalf of His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, to officially launch the One Health Platform for increased Healthcare delivery in Sierra Leone. As I do so, I call upon all of us, Development Partners, institutions of higher learning, civil society, private sector and the Sierra Leone community at large to join us in this noble One Health Initiative.
Thank You and God Bless us all
Victor Bockarie Foh
23rd June 2017