The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the urgent need for fast, effective and strategic intelligence on epidemics and health, and networking mechanisms that can provide support to those working in public health across North Macedonia.
Today, the North Macedonian Ministry of Health and Institute of Public Health are inaugurating the new Epidemics and Public Health Emergency Operations Centre in Skopje. The Centre will provide centralized, real-time information, monitoring and reporting, and advice on the response to public health events and emergencies.
Bringing together epidemiological expertise from the Institute of Public Health, it will offer digital solutions for an early-warning system to report and detect disease and public health events in a timely way. Ultimately, the Centre will improve surveillance and coordination among epidemiologists, laboratory staff and public health experts across the 10 other public health centres and 21 units in North Macedonia.
“I commend North Macedonia for its commitment to strengthening public health capacity to fight COVID-19. This new centre is a pioneering example of how WHO can partner with national authorities to build health security and extend public health intelligence to address both the current pandemic and future emergencies in the years to come,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
WHO support for the Centre
WHO is assisting in operationalizing the Centre and providing technical guidance, and a WHO public health expert will be embedded in the national team. This support was made possible thanks to a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Last year, a Joint External Evaluation of North Macedonia’s health emergency preparedness and response capacity recommended the establishment of an emergency operations centre. The new Epidemics and Public Health Emergency Operations Centre will contribute to building a national health emergency response framework and fulfilling the International Health Regulations (2005).
At the inauguration, Dr Venko Filipce, Minister of Health of North Macedonia, thanked WHO for its continuous support in the COVID-19 response. “The Health Emergency Operations Centre will play a critical role in national preparedness and response. During outbreaks, the Centre will be active 24/7, 365 days per year, providing support on decision-making, operations, liaison, risk communication, deployment management, emergency personnel staffing, logistics and planning,” he said.
During the event, Dr Jihane Tawilah, WHO Representative in North Macedonia, underlined how WHO’s collaboration with the Ministry of Health in this joint venture could inform other western Balkan countries on how to increase institutional capacity in health security and public health intelligence.