Togo health minister on battling COVID-19

Lomé, 2 September 2021 – From drastic lockdown measures to encouraging vaccine uptake, African countries have deployed a range of measures to counter the long-running COVID-19 pandemic. Entire government systems and communities have all been drawn into the effort in a variety of ways to stem the virus. In Togo, where over 90% of the health workforce has been vaccinated, Prof Moustafa Mijiyawa, the Minister of Health, Public Hygiene and Universal Health Coverage, explains how the country is striving to defeat the pandemic.

What measures are in place to boost preparedness and response?

The involvement of the president throughout the pandemic has been very instrumental. From the onset, a crisis committee chaired by the president was set up to steer the response. We also established various committees and working groups at the ministerial level as well as in different COVID-19 response areas. For instance, the National Management Committee oversees resource management, the Scientific Advisory Panel assists the government in devising policies, while the National COVID-19 Response Committee at the national and prefectural levels oversees the overall response efforts. The daily management of the response is handled through thematic units such as laboratory, treatment, epidemiological surveillance and infections prevention and control among others. To ensure preventive measures, including restrictive ones imposed by the government, are adhered to, a joint committee comprising the security forces and community volunteers takes charge. At the community level we have committees to support health facilities and health workers.

How did the country achieve 90% vaccination rate of its health workers?

What has been most crucial is the commitment by the government leadership to lead by example. The prime minister, ministers and senior government officials all took the jab when we launched the COVID-19 vaccination. We also set up a group of experts which was deployed to every region of the country to hold briefing sessions with health workers and discuss why it is important for health workers to receive the vaccine. We also organized the briefing sessions in the country’s major hospitals to encourage vaccine uptake among frontline health workers.

How has Togo boosted public education on COVID-19?

Through various activities and messages relayed over the public media, we have been persistent in getting the right message out to inform the public, dispel rumours and encourage the preventive measures. Radio and TV programmes featuring expert guests such as medical experts, university professors and health authorities have played an important role. Public education through audiovisual communication material such as posters, short videos and infographics have been disseminated all over. A decentralized approach through district health authorities, prefects and mayors have also been crucial. In each region, we have COVID-19 response committees, we are also working with community organizations as well as influencers and artists such as musicians.