As a Specialized Institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) responsible for health issues, the West African Health Organisation was created by Protocol A/P2/7/87 of 9 July 1987 signed in Abuja by the Heads of State and Government. WAHO’s Headquarters is located in Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso. Article III of the Protocol establishing WAHO stipulates that “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". Thus, by its founding protocol, WAHO is entrusted with a political mandate by the Heads of State and Government to ensure coordination of regional health interventions within the ECOWAS region.
As part of the overall vision of the Community to move from ECOWAS of States to ECOWAS of peoples in 2020, WAHO’s Vision is to be recognized by the Member States and the International Community as a proactive instrument of regional health integration that enables high-impact and cost-effective interventions and programmes.
The overall objective of WAHO is, together with the other Community Institutions, to contribute to the attainment of the ideal of the creation of an Economic Union of West Africa, in accordance with Article 3 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty.
Specifically, the main objectives of WAHO are those described in its founding protocol, namely:
Promote research into the major endemic diseases in the region and undertake activities aimed at controlling these diseases and their eradication;
Promote the training of medical specialists and of paramedical personnel and where necessary support the training of future medical graduates ;
Collect and disseminate technical information, epidemiological and others related to health research and training in Member States;
Assist in the establishment of technical information centres in Member States;
Promote and harmonize the establishment of laboratories for the production of vaccines, medicines manufacturing and quality control in the region;
Encourage cooperation in the control and eradication of drug dependency and abuse in the region;
Promote exchange of personnel and health technologies among Member States;
Provide advice on all health related aspects of development projects to Member States;
Support the strengthening of health services and infrastructures of Member States;
Provide assitance to Member States to resolve health problems in the event of emergencies following natural dissaters;
Collaborate with sub-regional, regional and international organizations to address health problems in the region;
Promote cooperation between scientists and professionals groups contributing to health development;
Propose conventions, agreements, regulations and recommendatins on regional health issues and undertake tasks entrusted to the Organization in this regard.
For the implementation of its mission, WAHO has the following decision-making bodies:
The Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, the Supreme Decision-making Body;
The Council of ECOWAS Ministers, comprising of the Ministers of Regional Integration, Finance and Planning-the Body which takes decisions for the approval of the Authority;
The Assembly of Health Ministers, which brings together the fifteen (15) Ministers of Health, the Body responsible for health issues at the technical level.
Deriving its authority from the Heads of State and Government, WAHO has the following comparative advantages:
Existence of a direct line of communication with the political decision-makers of Member States;
Capacity to propose to Member States for adoption conventions, agreements and regulations expected to regulate some precise aspects of health in the region;
Ability to advocate at the highest level for the adoption and implementation by Member States of resolutions relating to health approved at the international level;
Capacity to facilitate the ratification of agreements and other conventions relating to health among Member States and Strategic Partners;
Ability to facilitate exchange of resources between countries, and to harmonise health policies,
Ability to collect, manage and disseminate health information specific to West Africa to guide future health interventions;
Ability to promote health interventions that specifically address the needs of West African countries;
Ability to leverage on its membership of ECOWAS to mobilize resources.