NAIROBI, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- African countries could lose up to 22.4 billion U.S. dollars over the next decades if they fail to improve their surveillance system for vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD), the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Thursday.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the continent must improve its surveillance capacity for diseases that can be prevented through immunization, like polio, to ward off economic losses and potential deaths.
"Strong surveillance is the backbone of a functioning health information system, empowering health workers with timely, quality evidence to inform decision making," Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
"To curb the spread of life-threatening diseases, governments must invest in strong and functioning surveillance systems," she added.
WHO in its recently launched report titled "Investment Case for Vaccine-Preventable Disease Surveillance in the African Region 2020-2030" says that failure to invest in robust surveillance systems poses a huge threat to economies, national security and livelihoods in the continent.
Experts stressed the need for African governments to explore innovative financing towards disease surveillance failure to which the continent could experience 900,000 deaths.
"The fact that most countries in the African region continue to rely on external funding for VPD surveillance is a strong indicator of the work that remains to be done," said Richard Mihigo, program manager for immunization and vaccine development at the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
Governments have a central role to play to fulfill upcoming funding gaps and ensure immunization programs and surveillance remain strong and vigilant," he added.
Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, said that improved surveillance on diseases that can be prevented through immunization will reduce fatalities on vulnerable demographics like children.