More than 200 policymakers, development partners, public health experts and advocates from West Africa will gather in Dakar, Senegal, from Nov 8 to 11 to discuss issues related to the importance of addressing emerging health threats using a 'One Health' approach.

A statement received here from the World Health Organization says the approach is one which takes into account the inextricable link between the health of humans, animals and their environments and it notes that an estimated 75 per cent of infectious diseases which have emerged over the past decade have been caused by pathogens which spread to people from animals or animal products.

Trends such as globalisation, urbanisation and climate change make it easy for these 'zoonotic' diseases to transfer to humans and spread quickly around the world, says the WHO.

"The recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa is a prime example of this; a single case of the virus in a remote village, likely contracted through an infected animal, ultimately spread between more than 28,000 people, including in urban capital cities of six West African countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone," the WHO statement adds.

"West Africa currently faces outbreaks of other zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza in Poultry in Nigeria and Rift Valley Fever in Niger, as well as other public health threats, such as the appearance of Zika virus in Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau.

"At the upcoming West African Regional Conference on One Health, regional and global leaders will discuss strategies for predicting, preventing, detecting and responding to emerging health threats across the region by collectively addressing the health of people, animals and the environment. Ministers responsible for human health, animal health and wildlife from 17 West African countries would participate."

The first three days of the conference will consist of technical meetings in which health officials and technical personnel will focus on next steps for integrating One Health approaches into existing regional and country-level systems and programmes.

At the Ministerial Meeting on the last day, attending ministers for human health, animal health and wildlife will put forth a communique to guide future action for the West African sub-region.

The event is being hosted by the WHO's Regional Office for Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, including its West African Health Organization and Regional Animal Health Centre (RAHC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


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