A four day regional training of trainers on Public Health Events Management in Air Transport in WHO African Region was held at the Forest Hotel, Dodowa in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, from 6-10 November, 2017.
The training sought to enhance the capacities of competent authorities at African Airports, especially those open to international travels and designated to develop IHR public health core capacities, to implement a risk assessment approach to public health events, in a consistent manner and assist in determining interventions that are commensurate to the risks, while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.
The workshop was facilitated by a pool of experts from Ghana WCO, CPI/AFRO, CPI/Lyon, ICAO West Africa Regional office and Ghana MoH,
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa, Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Ghana, stressed the need to strengthen collaboration among countries for proper management of public health events in Africa’s air transport sector.
He said the increased volumes of people and cargo moving across borders posed a risk for international spread of diseases through air travel. It is therefore important to build capacities at points of entry through collaboration between air transport and public health sector stakeholders to quickly identify, detect and deal with public health threats.
Dr Kaluwa stated that increased collaboration would allow for the proper assessment of risks to public health that may arise from the movement of people across borders and better management of those risks without causing undue disruptions to the business of air travel.
“One of the major things is to collaborate and build the capacity of all the people who work within the air transport system,” he said.
Dr Kaluwa said the International Health Regulations (IHR), adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2005, looked at various public health threats and how they can affect international health security and seeks to ensure the capacity at all levels to rapidly detect and respond to public health emergencies before they become international Public health threats.
He, however, bemoaned the pace of implementation of the IHR by signatory countries, saying it had been slow across many countries.
The requirement, after the coming into force of the document in 2007, was for countries to build core capacities by 2012, he said, but most countries, especially in Africa had not built the required core capacities by the 2012 deadline” he said.
“Extensions were given but still not many had done so,” he said, adding that in the last few years, voluntary joint external evaluations (JEE) of core capacities in member states to identify gaps and development national action plans for public health security to address the gaps are being implemented. He said Ghana had done the external evaluation of the core capacities in February 2017 and identified some gaps and the development of a national action plan to address those gaps is ongoing.
Dr Ernest Konadu Asiedu, Head of Quality at the Ministry of Health, who represented the Minister of Health, said it was time for member countries to demonstrate commitment to establishing the requisite core capacity needs at the Points of Entry.
He urged stakeholders in the air transport industry to be proactive to detect, prevent and respond to any health risk moving around the world in relatively short time. He also urged the participants, from the 17 countries, to take advantage of the training to improve the status of IHR implementation in the respective countries.
Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, Deputy of Aviation said air transport industry was an important one that served as a catalyst for socio-economic growth contributing about 3.5 percent of global GDP and $72.5 billion of Africa’s GDP.
Ghana, she said, was therefore committed to ensuring safety including health safety as public health management was an integral part of aviation. He noted that Ghana was committed to the implementation of the IHR.
“We acknowledge the fact that the costs of the failure to ensure public health and safety are so great that they may undermine national aspirations for sustainable economic and social development.
Improving health and safety in the aviation sector is therefore in the best interest of all governments, airport operators, airlines, and other aviation employees,” he stated.
He lauded the WHO and ICAO for organising the training to prepare airport competent authorities to respond in a consistent, and coordinated manner to events and make decisions on interventions that are commensurate with the risks while avoiding unnecessary interferences with international air traffic and trade.
During this training each country participants will draft a plan for scale up training in their respective countries, to strengthen core capcity at PoE in ine with the IHR (2005) requirements.
A wide variety of public health events ranging in severity may occur in air transport, requiring different responses or, perhaps, no response at all. The stated purpose and scope of the International Health Regulations (IHR-2005) are "to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.” The IHR-2005, therefore constitute the essential vehicle for addressing global health security; and aim at protecting global health security while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. The IHR-2005 set forth a set of requirements to develop core capacities for prevention, detection and response at designated points of entry (PoE).
With the adoption of an all-hazard approach to public health risk, event management in air transport requires a multidisciplinary, multi-sector approach and must be implemented in the context of IHR, other intergovernmental agreements and national and regional rules and regulations. WHO develops guidelines, technical materials and training, and fosters networks for sharing expertise and best practice to assist countries in enhancing operational capacities for managing public health events in aviation, in terms of risk assessment, epi-investigation, reporting, adoption of public health measures, communication with national surveillance system, in a multi-sectoral approach.