The West African Health Organisation (WAHO) was formed in 1987 when the Heads of State and Government from all fifteen countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the Protocol creating the organisation. The Protocol, which was subsequently ratified by each government in the sub-region, grants WAHO status as a Specialised Agency of ECOWAS and describes the organisation’s mission as follows: "The objective of the West African Health Organisation shall be the attainment of the highest possible standard and protection of health of the peoples in the sub-region through the harmonisation of the policies of the Member States, pooling of resources, and cooperation with one another and with others for a collective and strategic combat against the health problems of the sub-region." Article III, Paragraph I 1987 Protocol of WAHO (in french)
The driving force behind WAHO’s creation was the incongruence of the agendas that were being pursued by the two existing inter-governmental health organisations in the sub-region, the Francophone Organisation de Coordination et de Cooperation pour la Lutte Contre les Grandes Endemies (OCCGE) and the Anglophone West African Health Community (WAHC). It was determined that, as matters of health are not bound by linguistic difference, it would benefit the organisations to synchronise their efforts and combine resources to enhance the impact of their programmes in West Africa. Thus, the OCCGE and WAHC merged to form WAHO, an organisation committed to transcending linguistic borders in the sub-region to serve all fifteen ECOWAS Member States. In October of 1998, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government established Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso as the site of WAHO Headquarters and appointed the Organisation’s Director and Deputy Director. In March of 2000, WAHO began active operations as a leading health authority in the sub-region, serving ECOWAS Member States :
WAHO is a proactive instrument of regional health integration that enables high-impact and cost-effective interventions and programmes by:
The Authority of Heads of State and Government of Member States is the supreme institution of the Community and is composed of Heads of State and/or Government of Member States. The Authority is responsible for the general direction and control of the Community and takes all measures to ensure its progressive development and the realisation of its objectives. As such, it is also the supreme decision-making body of WAHO.
The Council of Ministers is a rotating panel of Ministers from ECOWAS Member States that can include Ministers of Integration, Economic Planning and Finance, and Foreign Affairs. The Council is responsible for the functioning and development of the Community and makes recommendations to the Authority of ECOWAS on any action related to the objectives of the Community.
The jurisdiction of the Assembly of Health Ministers is principally limited to matters of health, and more particularly to the technical aspects therein. The Assembly determines the general policies of WAHO and makes other appropriate decisions to promote or advance the objectives of the Organisation.
Although it is a Specialised Agency of ECOWAS, WAHO enjoys administrative and financial autonomy. The General Directorate of WAHO, which is responsible for the execution of the organisation’s programmes and activities, is headed by a Director General, assisted by a Deputy Director General. The activities of WAHO are distributed among five divisions that comprise the General Directorate: