By: Mpho Shelile

Hlotse – As part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Flagship Initiative to ensure health security in Africa, the Government of Lesotho recently launched the AVoHC-SURGE onboarding training for 50 responders in Leribe District.

Due to health matters only 49 were awarded; 34 females and 15 males.  

Spearheaded by the African Union and the World Health Organization (WHO), the AVoHC-SURGE program equips African nations with expertise to swiftly tackle health crises.

The training, which marks the culmination of an intensive and transformative program, aims to enhance Lesotho’s healthcare emergency response capabilities in Hlotse Mahlakapese. Participants, trainers, WHO representatives, and other distinguished guests gathered to celebrate this significant achievement during the closing ceremony.

The EPR Flagship Initiative Roadmap, launched on March 19, 2024, receives support from the WHO’s Regional Office for Africa and funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).

Lesotho’s participation in the WHO EPR Flagships initiative aligns with the goal of promoting health security in the African Region and contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 3 – “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, today marks a significant milestone in the implementation of Lesotho’s emergency preparedness and response initiative under the AVoHC-SURGE flagship,” stated Mrs. ‘Maneo Ntene, Principal Secretary from the Ministry of Health.

In 2023, Lesotho expressed interest in participating in this program, which aims to enhance health security in the African region and contribute to Sustainable Development Goal No. 3 – ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.

Mrs. Ntene concluded her remarks by congratulating all graduates, emphasizing that reaching this point was no easy feat.

In her remarks, the WHO representative Dr. Mary Stephen indicates that participants have successfully completed the intensive one-month face-to-face AVoHC-SURGE training.

This milestone marks the beginning of a journey that will include specialized training, simulation exercises, and deployments.

Lesotho now proudly stands as the 18th Member State of WHO AFRO to officially join the continental roster of emergency experts known as AVoHC-SURGE.

This joint effort between WHO AFRO and Africa CDC aims to strengthen our capacity to respond swiftly and effectively to health emergencies.”

The AVoHC-SURGE training goes beyond enhancing our individual capabilities, it is about creating a resilient network of professionals across the WHO AFRO region. These experts are ready to act within 24 to 48 hours during public health crises.

Our collective mission is clear, to save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect communities. By doing so, we contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 – ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages.

“As you move forward, remember to support each other, share knowledge, stay vigilant, actively participate in our community of practice, and remain ready for any required engagements. Our work is a calling to serve humanity during its most critical times of need, wherever that may be,” she says.

In his remarks, Hon. Mokhothu Makhalenyane from social cluster states that in these critical times, as the world grapples with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that claimed millions of lives globally, we gather here to celebrate the successful completion of the AVoHC-SURGE training.

Lesotho, too, faced its share of challenges, recording 709 deaths during the pandemic. It is evident that global preparedness and readiness to respond to such shocks remain a pressing concern.

The 2023 International Health Regulations (IHR) State Party Annual Assessment (SPAR) revealed that global IHR capacities are implemented at 67%, with the African region at 50% and Lesotho at 40%.

“As Chairperson of the Social Cluster in the Parliament of Lesotho, I reaffirm my commitment to supporting the execution of the EPR Flagship initiative. We eagerly anticipate updates from the Ministry of Health and other line ministries represented here on how they plan to apply the knowledge and skills acquired during this training.

I extend heartfelt gratitude to the WHO country office (WCO), AFRO, and Africa CDC for their technical and financial support throughout this training. Lesotho now stands among the 23 nations implementing this flagship initiative. Notably, we are the 18th country to complete at least the onboarding training phase, marking a significant milestone in our collective effort to enhance health security and emergency responsiveness across Africa.”