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The Work of WHO in the African Region: Biennial Report of the Regional Director 2016 - 2017

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Executive summary

The Regional Director is pleased to present this report on the work of WHO in the African Region for the period January 2016 to June 2017. The report outlines the significant achievements made under the six categories in the 12th General Programme of Work in supporting health development in Member States in the African Region. It reflects contributions from WHO country offices and the Regional Office, including the Intercountry Support Teams.

"WHO in the African Region is committed to working with its Member States and partners to deliver results that transform the health of all Africa’s people through universal health coverage for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."
Dr Matshidiso Moeti
WHO Regional Director for Africa

NEW WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME (WHE) HERALDS SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS IN HEALTH SECURITY

With over 150 public health events in 2016-2017, including outbreaks such as meningitis, Lassa fever and cholera, as well as the health effects of drought, floods and food insecurity, the African Region deals with more health events than any other region.

WHO’s major reforms in health security to make the Organization fit for purpose for addressing global health threats have led to more effective support to countries’ outbreak and emergency responses. The Regional Office coordinated the deployment of over 2500 experts in 2016, to respond to major public health events including Ebola, yellow fever, cholera, and Rift Valley fever outbreaks.

In several humanitarian crises, WHO supported the public health response, reaching over six million refugees and internally displaced people in the Region. In 2016, WHO together with Ministries of Health and partners in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), vaccinated over 30 million people in a matter of months, to end the largest ever yellow fever outbreak.

Furthermore, the exceptional use of emergency fractional dosing enabled the outbreak in Kinshasa,
DRC to be controlled despite vaccine shortages. This innovative approach could potentially save lives in future outbreaks. Research is ongoing to determine the duration of immunity conferred by the fractional dose.

The Incident Management System used in the response to public health events is enabling better coordination and faster deployment of experts to support outbreaks and emergencies. In May 2017, the DRC confirmed a new Ebola outbreak. Within 48 hours of notification, the WHO Country Office and WHE Programme were working seamlessly with the Government and partners to set up a field and alert response system in the Likati health zone near the Central African Republic border. The outbreak was brought to an end within two months.

Using the new Joint External Evaluations (JEEs) tool, WHO with partners assessed and identified gaps in the core capacities of 18 countries to detect and respond to public health threats in line with the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005).

The JEEs have informed the development of comprehensive, all-hazard country plans to address these gaps, and countries are now poised to mobilize resources for addressing them.

The Organization is mobilizing resources to recruit the staff required in the Member State-approved reformed, Health Emergencies Programme, and to consolidate this positive start.