Signing of Agreement between WHO and the School of Public Health,to support GFELTP

The training of field epidemiology and monitoring staff is critical in strengthening the capacity of medical staff in managing public health emergencies such as Ebola and Cholera. It is in this regard that WHO is providing funding of $792,000 to the School of Public Health (SPH), specifically its Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (GFELTP), with its partners to train medical personnel to Identify and control Ebola and other diseases in Ghana, to build capacities in the districts and regions to respond to such emergencies in an appropriate way.

The chairman for the occasion was Prof. Yao Tettey, Provost College of Health Sciences. In his opening remarks he said we should “ Be prepared” as the motto of the Boys Scout advocates and that is what this ceremony is all about. It seems we are never prepared. We should however not be overtaken by events just like it happened in Liberia where structures had broken down for obvious reasons, Guinea and Sierra Leone. In Nigeria they were more prepared and were able contain the disease because they had put in place systems due to the past history of Lassa fever but in Ghana we were scared. Training he said, should not happen during an outbreak. Noguchi was able to test the samples because long before the outbreak Noguchi and this was because they asked themselves “are we ready for any epidemic” and the answer was yes but they needed to be more prepared and therefore sent staff out for training. Hence their ability to test samples during the Ebola outbreak.

H.E. Mr. Kaoru Yoshimura, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of Ghana was at the ceremony. He congratulated the effective effort by WHO and SPH to fight against the Ebola virus. The government of Japan considers the outbreak a hindrance to both human and economic development, not only against affected countries but all around the globe and hence joined the fight against Ebola hand in hand with the international community. Japan has so far contributed $173 million worldwide to fight against Ebola  and strengthen preparedness against any outbreak of Ebola. Its assistance to Ghana includes procurement of Ebola equipment and reagents for the diagnosis and confirmation of Ebola at Noguchi. Japan’s continues its support  to Ghana against Ebola by supporting short courses in public health surveillance of disease and response in order to help Ghana strengthen its Public health National surveillance system and increase capacity to manage emergencies and disaster outbreaks in the future. Japan will continue its support  to Ghana to strengthen her health systems to ensure that capacities and resources are ready to respond to any emergencies.

Ambassador of Japan

Prof. Adanu in his remarks emphasized the fact that there has been a wonderful relationship over the past 18 months between SPH and WHO country office. SPH is seen as strategically positioned to partner with those who provide health services in the country such as the Ghana Health Service, the Ministry of Health and all agencies involved in ensuring good health of Ghanaians. With the coming in of  Dr. Magda Robalo, SPH partnered with WHO office to conduct studies on the Ebola virus disease and produce a docudrama on Ebola virus contact tracing. Many students have benefited from training/working with WHO and WHO has also helped in developing the research careers of faculty members. WHO Has been the important link between SPH and all partners gathered here. 
SPH started the Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (GFELTP) because it saw the need for there to be competent epidemiologists and laboratory personnel to deal with outbreaks in the country. SPH partnered with the Ministry of Health to request for technical and financial support  from the Centre for Disease Control in organizing the program which has been running well over the years. It’s a 2 year competency based post graduate program which involves class room teaching and on the job learning.  Physicians, laboratory scientist, Vertinarians are and enrolled work together as a team in approaching disease control. This program leads to the award of a Certificate of Competency and an Mphil degree in Applied Epidemiology and Disease Control. It has so far trained 52 graduates who are providing services to enhance disease surveillance and response activities as well as improved public health intervention management skills at all levels of the health system in the country and beyond. They have taken part in disease outbreak investigations , evaluation of disease surveillance systems at the national level and have also provided services for data analysis at the regional level, participated in local and national conferences and have made many oral and poster presentation at theses conferences. The program has also organized short courses on disease surveillance outbreak investigations and response  to district health staff.  However the capacity to manage major communicable outbreak in the country is still weak. The Ebola scare brought out the lack of capacity of the health sector at levels which serve as the first point of call during health threats and hence the necessity that more still needs to be done.
SPH cooperated with WHO during the Ebola disease outbreak at the initial stages to design and start a field  epidemiology  program for district health workers which is a  3 months basic course, a 9 months intermediate course and a 2 year advanced training program.  In December 2014, SPH received funds from WHO and trained 33 health personnel in Greater Accra. This was a 3 months basic course at request of the Regional Health Directorate to strengthen them for frequent outbreaks such as cholera. This involves 2 weeks classroom work, 3 month field work and preparation of reports and sharing outputs.
WHO decided to bring in more financial support to train health workers in 5 regions across Ghana, training  between 20 -35 health workers. This would be a 3 week classroom work followed by 3 months field work. He expressed his appreciation to all the partners and pledged that the school will approach this with all seriousness and the funds will go a long way to ensuring the good health of Ghanaians.

Prof. Richard Adanu giving his remarks

Dr. Magda Robalo (outgoing WHO Representative to Ghana) felt honoured and privileged to share in the partnership and thanked the partners, Japan, Norway and Canada, who are helping WHO to help Ghana. WHO acknowledged that without their support this would not have been possible. These partners felt it was good to make investments in the health sector in Ghana. WHO believes SPH has what it needs to move this joint effort forward. She said What is needed to keep for the future is that, Never again should an outbreak find us the way Ebola found us last year, 2014. She continued to stress the fact that WHO is now doing upstream work so that if something happens in future, because we know Outbreaks will happen, though we do not know which one, but we want to be prepared than we found ourselves. A lot of training and downstream work was done earlier with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ministry of Health (MOH), Noguchi and SPH at the height of the epidemic.  She said these was a  need to move forward in a more structured and better organized way of strengthening the capacities and the system that would respond appropriately in the future to potential outbreaks. WHO is working with SPH, the districts and the regions with the support of MOH and GHS to get Ghana in a better place than we think we are today. Dr. Robalo said by this time next year the district health personnel would have been trained and empowered to be able to do surveillance, investigations and respond appropriately to public health emergencies. She thanked SPH and partners who are helping tohelp Ghana respond effectively to outbreaks that may occur. This she said is not just about health but to also bring people from the vertinary services and get involved into the one health approach that WHO is looking forward to.

Dr. Magda Robalo giving her speech

The Deputy Minister of Health , Dr. Victor Asare Bampoe, said the signing of this agreement signifies the  power of partnership. It demonstrates the power of partnership at two levels. The local level – SPH, Noguchi, and UG and GHS and MOH and the international level that is between WHO, Japan and Ghana, UN and WHO. The partnership is  for Ghana’s preparation against Ebola bringing in Canada and Norway. It becomes very clear that it is a cliché, that united we stand and divided we fall. It is therefore important to continue these partnerships.  We are where we are because we all got together.  This is just building it up to another level. The Government of Ghana is very concerned and committed to the fact that Ghana should be prepared for any public Health emergency. He thanked Japan,Norway and Canada for their support as well.

Hon. Dr. Victor Bampoe, Deputy Minister of Health


The Sigining of the Agreement in Pictures