Representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states, met from 15 – 17 August, 2017, in Accra, Ghana, for the establishment of the West Africa Integrated Vector Management (WA-IVM) Programme. After a series of consultative workshops, this meeting was the final stage for the validation of the programme.
The key objective of this meeting was to agree on the scope and approach for rolling out the WA-IVM programme with malaria as pathfinder disease and gene drive as pathfinder technology. The meeting also sought to identify the needs and requirements of regulators that would facilitate the operationalization of the IVM programme in the ECOWAS region. It also aimed at determining a governance structure for the programme and aimed at considering for adoption a five year workplan for the programme.
42 representatives, mainly CEOs for Food and Drugs Authorities, and National biosafety Agencies as well as from Ethics Committees of the 15 ECOWAS countries took part in the meeting. It was officially opened by Dr Rufus Ebegba, Director General of Nigeria National Biosafety Management Agency and representing his country that chairs ECOWAS. He stated that “science and technology are the major drivers of economic change and if there are no applications for science and technology, the African continent will not make any significant progress.”
Mrs Mimi Darko, CEO of Ghana Food and Drug Authority and Mr. Eric Okoree, CEO the Ghana National Biosafety Agency, welcomed participants and wished that the different discussions contribute to fine-tune the IVM programme for a smooth and effective implementation on the ground.
Dr Tete Amouh, Officer in charge of Communicable Disease at the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), said that “in the work we are doing here, we have to keep in mind that it is to help millions of people in the West Africa region, and beyond that, the whole African continent.”
Dr Jeremy Ouedraogo, Director of the NEPAD Agency West Africa Regional Office in Dakar, also welcomed participants, on behalf of NEPAD Agency CEO and affirmed that the use of emerging technologies was a strong recommendation of the African Union Ministers of Health in addition to other existing technologies for malaria eradication in Africa. How to effectively implement this if the technical actors for the use of this technologies have no proper consultation framework? The integrated approach seems therefore the best for a rational and concerted use and implementation of all these techniques and technologies.”
During the meeting, presentations were made on various topics pertaining to the programme, especially the burden of communicable diseases in the West Africa region, the risks/benefits in disease management, an overview of the WA-IVM programme, the tools and approaches in vector control, the existing regional collaborations in vector control, the recommendations of the African Union High Panel on Emerging Technologies.
The meeting also enabled participants to agree on the key components of the WA-IVM programme, including the programme scope and approach, the stakeholder mapping, the roles the health and environment regulators, the roles of ethics committees, the governance structure, training curriculum, the programme workplan and development of guidelines.
From the discussions, it was pointed out that despite the current malaria control strategies going on in West African countries, there is still an increase of malaria incidences in many West African countries. Therefore, there is a clear need to use emerging technologies like the gene drive to contribute to make a significant progress towards eliminating malaria by 2030 in the ECOWAS region.
The meeting also came up with 10 important resolutions, ranging from capacity strengthening for stakeholders and technical working groups to the governance structure adopted for the operationalization of the programme. Among other resolutions are also the need for participants to strengthen their national IVM programmes which will serve as a foundation for the regional platform; the importance of joint sessions between technology developers and regulators in order to enhance understanding of each other’s mode of operation and also the science behind the technology; and the need for a communication plan and messaging about the programme and technologies being dealt with.
During the closing ceremony, the meeting report was amended and adopted by all participants. The programme secretariat, run by WAHO and NEPAD Agency, will finalize editing of the documents annexed to this report and circulate to the delegates.