Occupational health

News from WHO

Occupational health in Africa

Dr Magaran Monzon BAGAYOKO
Health and Environment Information System (HES)
Coordinator of African Network on Vector Resistance (ANVR)
Cluster of Health Promotion (HPR)
WHO Regional Office for Africa, Brazzaville, Congo Republic

With resolution WHA 60.26 from 2007 "Workers' health: Global Plan of Action" the World Health Assembly urged the Member States to devise, in collaboration with workers, employers and their organizations, national policies and plans for implementation of the global plan of action on workers’ health as appropriate, and to establish appropriate mechanisms and legal frameworks for their implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In the African region 13 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Mauritania, Senegal, and Swaziland) and 10 countries (Benin, Guinea, Mauritania, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, and Togo) have developed national plans and programmes dealing specifically with the health of workers. WHO assisted Namibia in implementing its national occupational health policy and to strengthen the capacities of the ministry of health to lead action on occupational health.

Furthermore, WHO in collaboration with the German Programme for International Collaboration and the British Department for International Development worked with partners in Ghana on developing initiatives for healthy workplaces. The project emphasized the responsibility of companies for protecting and promoting the health of workers. The WHO healthy workplace initiative is a comprehensive approach to dealing with health at the workplaces, by improving the physical and psychological working environment and strengthening personal health resources. The initiative also encourages businesses (enterprises) to act responsibility in creating healthier workplaces. WHO also supported a conference on occupational health in small and medium scale enterprises, organized by the International Commission on Occupational Health in Accra, Ghana, in 2011. The conference discussed the ways of addressing occupational health problems in small enterprises and in the informal sector in Africa.

In 2010, WHO in collaboration with ILO developed a new tool for Work Improvement in the Health Sector called Health WISE based on the Work Improvement in Small Enterprises (WISE ). This is an action-oriented and practical tool for introducing changes in the workplace through combined efforts from both management and employees, which further ensures sustainability of the changes. This approach to improving working conditions in the health sector provides examples of smart, simple, and low-cost practices that can be applied in any workplace setting. In 2010 and 2011, the draft Health WISE tool was piloted in Tanzania and in Senegal. WHO also provided technical assistance to Nigeria, Tanzania (Zanzibar), and Namibia for implementing national campaigns for immunizing healthcare workers against Hepatitis B.

Additional support for implementing action on workers' health in African countries was provided through the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for occupational health (CCs). The WHO CC at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin organized several events for building capacities for occupational health in African countries, including a forum for the occupational health and safety committees, a regional symposium on recognition and prevention of occupational diseases and training on occupational health in recycling works.