By Gifty Arthur
A team of officials from Uganda have been dispatched to Ghana to understudy, the success story of Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), after it was touted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the best regulatory body in Africa.
The officials selected from that country’s Health Ministry and other Ministries, are in Ghana to learn, how best Uganda can merge its two Institutions that is food and drugs, as one unit to enable it function effectively, just like it counterpart in Ghana.
There have been similar visits by countries, such as Senegal, Ethiopia, Nigeria among others to the FDA, whose work is receiving international recognition.
Speaking to “The Herald” on the sidelines of the “learning process” at the Head Office of the FDA in Accra last Wednesday, a member of the five-member delegation, Sematiko Gordon Katende, explained that since 2007, Uganda has had plans to improve it laws to widen its existing National Drug Authority (NDA) formed in 1993, into Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).
“When we did some research, it was found that Ghana has one of the good laws in the food and drugs registration on the continent. So it was decided that we pay a physical visit rather than reading the law on the website. So that was why we constituted a team to come and get the experience of Ghana”, Mr Katende explained.
The Ugandan officials are hopeful that a merger of the various units would be covered by the yet to be established FDA, to ensure effective monitoring, supervision and protection of the citizenry.
For now, they are scattered under various Institutions and Agencies at various Ministries, the delegation revealed.
Mr. Katende, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NDA, described their decision to travel to Ghana as very fruitful, adding that there have been discussions at various levels of government, adding that, already the Ugandan Cabinet has given approval that Ghana’s example be adopted.
The delegation which also includes, the Ugandan Minister of Health and Chief Director of that Ministry, representatives from the Trade Ministry and Attorney General’s Chambers said, aside learning about constituting an effective law for smooth implementation, they have acknowledged the need to invest in infrastructure and employ competent personnel among others.
The NDA boss, a pharmacist by profession and a former Member of Parliament (MP) said that, the team has also learnt from Ghana’s challenges and they are hopeful that they will not repeat them in their quest to achieve a near perfect food and drugs authority for Uganda.
He said, the visit has accorded them the opportunity to appreciate the need to always engage and sensitize stakeholders, especially the media to educate and assure the Ugandans that their work is purpose driven to ensure quality, accessibility and their safety, which Ghana, according to them has been able to implement to the latter.
The team was impressed with how the FDA has managed to engage the media in informing and educating the public on unwholesome and sub-standard food and drugs and also ensured that companies and organisations go strictly by the laws and regulations.
On his part, the CEO of the FDA, Dr. Stephen Opuni, revealed that the Ugandan delegation was not the first to have come to learn from his outfit. He mentioned that there have been similar visits by countries such as Senegal, Ethiopia, Nigeria among others, describing their visits as very refreshing.
“We should all be proud of ourselves to learn that a regulatory authority of medicine in East Africa, has chosen to come to Ghana to understudy Food and Drugs Authority and this is the second time this year that they are coming, but this time they came with their Health Minister”, Dr. Opuni, said excitedly .
He said, previous collaborations by the FDA and other countries and agencies across the globe especially the WHO, coupled with their decision to share information with others, have helped reduced, the importation of sub-standard drugs into the various markets on the continent.
Later in an interview with The Herald, Dr. Opuni said that though he could not tell exactly what other countries are not doing, he is certain that his outfit is acting according to its mandate, hence the reason why Ghana’s FDA has become a shining example to other countries in the sub-region.
“Honestly I don’t know what other countries are not doing, but what I know is that we are doing whatever is required of us to protect public health and safety.
We do always issue press releases, and public education, whenever we sight any sub-standard medicine on the market and off course, World Health Organisation (WHO) gets to know of these and the other countries eventually also gets to know that this is how Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority is working, they are doing well, they have very competent staff.
Because, some of our staff who participates in some WHO programmes and they have realized that, the expertise of our staff is up to standard. So off course, if there is an African country that wants to learn from best practice, they will recommend the country Ghana”, he explained.
Dr Opuni mentioned that credible information from the general public, which they treat as very confidential and critical have also helped in achieving this feat.
Aside the FDA, the team also benefitted from the rich experiences of two ex-Ministers, Dr. Winfred Richard Anane of the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) government and Joseph Yileh Chireh, who is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, who played different roles in drafting the FDA law.