The 21st Bi-Annual Plenary Session of the West African Health Sector Unions’ Network (WAHSUN) was held on 20th - 21st April 2022, at the Denis Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, under the theme “The Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons for the Future”. Delegates of health sector unions from Togo, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone participated.
- Read this in:
The Public Services International was also in attendance in the persons of Comrade Prince Peters A. Adeyemi, JP, vice president of PSI, Brother Sani Baba Mohammed, the PSI Regional Secretary for Africa and Arab Region; and Brother Baba Aye, PSI Health, and Social Services Officer, Ferney Voltaire.
The keynote address was delivered by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the International Trade Unions Confederation, on the theme, while Comrades Prince Peters Adeyemi, Vice President, PSI-Global, Comrade John Odah, Executive Secretary OTUWA, Comrade Bashman Senior program officer for Solidarity Centre, Nigeria delivered solidarity messages.
In the business session, delegates deliberated on issues related to the need for quality public healthcare delivery, health infrastructure, technology and research, Pandemic preparedness, vaccination hesitancy, equity of health resources and the general working conditions of the health workforce, national security, and solidarity in service delivery in West Africa, in the course of which, the Conference-in-session deliberated and resolved thus:
Access to Quality Healthcare
WAHSUN acknowledges and appreciates the need to provide quality public healthcare service that is accessible, affordable, and available to all citizens of the West Africa sub-region. Provision of this service should not be traded for anything else hence:
WAHSUN, in session, calls on the governments of the Sub-Region to publicly fund and provide quality health services for all towards the full realization of health as a fundamental human right, in line with the as-sertion of the preamble of the constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Investment in Public Health Services
There is a growing decline in the level of investments in Public Health Services by governments in the West African sub-region. This is evident in the aggressive policy reforms promoting privatization of public health services; drastic cuts in financial outlays for occupational health and safety in the health sector; erosion of health insurance coverage, including the continued lack of health insurance schemes in some countries, and; low intake of health professionals in health facilities after completion of training, due to inadequate budgetary provisions for health employment.
WAHSUN calls on all Governments within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to adequately fund health care by the Abuja Declaration (2001) of funding health care services up to fifteen per-cent (15%) and urges all other governments in the sub-region to take a cue and ensure the availability, accessibility, and affordability of health services for the public in the urban and rural areas of Member-States. Al-so, Conference-in-session recommends that governments, as a matter of responsibility, should allocate enough resources for infrastructure, technology, and equipment and motivate quality staff for attraction and retention.
Research into Vaccines and Diseases
The creation of a vaccine involves scientists and medical experts for intense research before vaccines are produced and made available to the general public. The first step of this extensive process involves several years of laboratory research, in which scientists and researchers identify an antigen that can prevent disease. This process is capital intensive; hence most developing countries tend not to be involved in such activity. The Ebola and Covid-19 pandemic outbreak has further exposed the vulnerability of the health systems in the sub-region in terms of accessibility of vaccines.
WAHSUN-in-session calls on all governments to invest in the research and development of vaccines for dis-eases that are endemic in the region.
4. Vaccine Hesitancy
Vaccination programmes in West Africa have made extraordinary progress over the last decades. Yet, vac-cine hesitancy threatens to erode these gains. Vaccine hesitancy is a continuum between vaccine acceptance and refusal. Many people in Africa are delaying or refusing recommended vaccines for themselves or their children, even when safe and effective vaccines are available. This predisposes communities to infectious diseases, resulting in multiple disease outbreaks, consuming resources, and costing lives. Vaccine hesitancy is currently receiving unprecedented global attention. However, there remain several knowledge gaps, particularly in West Africa.
WAHSUN-in-session calls on all governments to use their communication agencies for mass awareness creation and behavioural change programmes to fight against vaccine hesitancy among citizens.
Waiver of Intellectual Property Rights on Vaccines, medicines and technology
When high-income countries (HICs) and big pharmaceutical companies hold on to the patent rights of vac-cines, it makes vaccines more expensive and inaccessible to lower and middle-income countries (LMICs). The possibility of exploiting patent waivers in the Trade-Related aspect on Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement and compulsory licensing in facilitating access to the vaccines must concern governments and trade unions in the West.
Conference-in-session calls on all governments and member unions to support the campaign for the TRIPS waiver on Covid-19 vaccines, medicines and technology to be waived so LMICs can manufacture them to fight the pandemic.
A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. Preparing for such health emergencies provides information about the pandemic, including specific policy suggestions and more universal resources on education, prevention, and preparation. Information on recent outbreaks such as Ebola and COVID-19 pandemic can help educate and inform decisions on pandemic prevention and preparedness.
WAHSUN, in session, calls on the governments of the Sub-region to make adequate preparation for medical emergencies.
Stop climate change
The Conference-in-session is worried by the alarming state of the climate crisis. The recent report of the In-tergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that governments continually fail to live up to their com-mitments to avoid the peril which the earth is sliding into.
In this light, WAHSUN-in-session calls on all governments to stop global warming and save the planet.
Security in the sub-region
West Africa is making impressive progress in economic growth, democratisation, and regional cooperation. While the recent rise in violence and conflict and drug trafficking, piracy, extremism, and other emerging threats have sparked concerns over its future development, efforts to prevent conflicts have also improved, contributing to overall stability. Development policy has a critical role in supporting stability to reduce con-flict and violence over the long term. This requires interventions in many areas, including support for lagging regions, strengthening local governance, improving land management, and spurring job creation. Also, the re-emergence of coup d’état is a call for concern for regional stability.
WAHSUN in session calls on ECOWAS to impress governments to practice good governance and be more transparent and accountable to forestall stability among member countries.
Celebration of WAHSUN Day (9th November)
The Conference-in-session committed itself to celebrate WAHSUN DAY on 9th November of each year in member countries by affiliate union and to use the day to champion the vision of WAHSUN,
WAHSUN calls on governments of counties within the Sub-region to support the health sector unions in this direction.
WAHSUN Day of Action in All Member Countries
On the growing decline of investment in the Health Sector in Member Countries, Member Unions and Associations are enjoined to hold a campaign on the 9 July 2022, to tell ECOWAS governments to increase spending in the health sector to attract and retain well motivated and qualified Human Resource for Health, develop medical research and invest in modern equipment that will improve quality public health delivery systems in our various countries.
A Call for Quality Public Health Care for All
WAHSUN, in a session, called on Governments of affiliate member Unions to be committed to the course of WAHSUN in championing quality health care for all and demanded the renewed commitment of leadership and affiliates to pursue the WAHSUN agenda.
Endorsement of Mali and Togo as full members WAHSUN
Having fully completed the constitutionally stipulated period of observer status, the WAHSUN in session officially endorsed the full membership of Mali and Togo into the Network.
Outsourcing asylum seekers by the UK government
The WAHSUN in session condemned, the recent announcement by the United Kingdom (UK) and Rwanda governments on the repatriation of Asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda. Commodification of migrants is not acceptable under any guise. The UK’s new Migration and Economic Development Partnership model must therefore respect the global standards for the Safe Return, Readmission and Reintegration of Mi-grants to their home countries at all times.
Delegates at the 21st plenary session of WAHSUN believe that delivering quality public health care was very achievable within the Sub-region. Through Equity and Solidarity, Quality can be achieved. The Conference ended with a renewed commitment to the tenets of the Network, in the public interest and for the full imple-mentation of its resolutions by the WAHSUN leadership and all member unions and calls for all govern-ments ’support as partners.
PERPETUAL OFORI-AMPOFO (FWACH, FGCNM)