SENEGAL — The Senegalese government, in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), has established a regional health emergency hub in Dakar, the Senegalese capital.
This effort intends to improve the African region’s ability to respond quickly and efficiently to health crises, thereby saving lives.
Using the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO in Africa has been working closely with nations in the region over the last two years to create decentralized emergency response systems, providing a more effective response to health crises.
As part of a transformative program, the WHO is on a mission to construct three emergency hubs in the region, with the WHO Regional Emergency Hub in Dakar being the second of its type.
WHO and the Government of Kenya opened the first in Nairobi in 2022, with plans to open a health emergency hub in Pretoria in 2024.
Senegal’s Prime Minister, Amadou Ba, stressed the importance of the hub, adding that it will allow the WHO Regional Office for Africa to support countries affected by health or humanitarian crises. This will allow for faster and more structured responses.
Each year, the African region has the highest number of health emergencies in the world, with more than 130 disease outbreaks predicted by November 2023.
Over 33 million people in six nations in West Africa’s Sahel area require life-saving humanitarian aid.
The major purpose of the regional emergency centers is to significantly minimize the time it takes to provide countries with a life-saving, effective emergency response after a public health crisis has been declared.
This intends to reduce the average response time from 45 days to three days, which is critical in making a substantial impact on the fate of those affected by crises and effectively controlling and eliminating disease outbreaks.
These health emergency hubs also serve as centers of excellence, with the goal of training over 3000 African professionals in the core technical skills required for an efficient response to health emergencies.
Each of the three centers specializes in a different role, capitalizing on each host country’s comparative advantages.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, expressed gratitude, noting that this hub is in line with the current global dynamic toward emergency preparedness, vaccine manufacturing, the supply chain, and effective instruments to better respond to public health disasters.
The Senegal hub focuses on supply chain management, data analysis, innovation, and information management, whereas the Kenya hub focuses on emergency medical staff development.
The South African hub specializes in R&D and genomic surveillance.
Since the temporary warehouse in Nairobi opened in September 2022, the delivery time of crucial emergency health supplies and equipment in the region has been shortened from at least three weeks to an average of three days. Responder deployment has also been drastically decreased.
Senegal’s government has set aside five hectares of land on the outskirts of Dakar for the construction of the Regional Emergency Hub, which will house an 8000-square-meter facility with 100 office spaces.
Furthermore, the government has set up a 5000-square-meter container yard and is enabling quick customs processing processes for inbound and departing commodities.
The hubs in Kenya and Senegal include a warehouse for prepositioning medical supplies and equipment, a cutting-edge training facility, an infectious diseases unit, an emergency response simulation facility, and a health emergency first responder training camp.
To assist countries, the Regional Emergency Hubs will collaborate closely with partners and the larger United Nations ecosystem.
WHO is also working closely with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to improve emergency preparedness and response, as well as health systems across the continent.