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By Louis Ako-Egbe Wednesday. Dec 19, 2018

Latest Experiences at WHO Headquarters

How time flies? Some Two months ago when I started my interning at the WHO headquarters my supervisor cautioned me that I have to make every moment count as the three months allocated for my internship can be so short. And indeed, the time has gone by just like the snap of a finger. Here am I reflecting on the last few weeks of my stay in Geneva.

The month of November and preliminary weeks of December have been pretty busy at the unit. The coming sight of the end-of-year has suddenly reactivated the consciousness of project managers to revisit their drawing boards to identify and flag all pending projects. This awareness was also personal, as I also realised how many private meetings for networking I had pending. So, I had to develop strategies to accomplish both the technical assignments from my supervisors and build the social networks I will need for my work.


As one of my major contacts, I was privileged to be granted an audience by the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros. It was a brief meeting during which I presented the challenges faced by frontline regional and district managers like myself in delivering on the UHC goal. Together we discussed ways to overcome such challenges and he reassured me of WHO’s commitment to strengthen health districts and Ministries of health in countries to foster the UHC agenda by 2030.


Louis Dec 2


One of such tasks was the review of WHO Global Public Health Goods (GPHGs). These are a set of products or services developed or undertaken by WHO that are of benefit either globally or to multiple countries across multiple regions. These can either be normative standards, data, research, innovation, secretariat functions or multilateral goods. We were called upon to review 943 submitted goods, qualify them as GPHGs according to the agreed standard definition and set criteria, confirm their validity (to be produced in the 2020-2021 biennium), map the goods to WHA resolutions/Executive Board decisions, identify the goods that have been produced or published already and present the results to the three Deputy Director Generals (DDGs) of WHO.


Louis Dec 3


We (three interns, consultants and the members of the Transformation team) had to review four huge databases in order to produce the final report to inform the DDGs. Of the submitted 943, we selected 518 which met the set criteria. This preselected group was further reviewed with a group of invited WHO country representatives (WRs) to validate the list, identify duplicates and the global goods which required modifications (separation, clarity or withdrawal). This work was crowned by a two-day meeting with the top management of WHO headquarters.


Louis Dec 4


Meanwhile, at the level of the unit I developed a concept note for quality in fragile, conflict and violent settings (FCVs) which is to serve as an entry point to the development of a framework to improve quality of health care services in FCVs. In addition, I produced a synthesis paper for compassion in quality of healthcare. This paper was inspired by the work on compassion by the Global Learning Laboratory for quality, the presentations made by country delegates during the ISQua conference in Malaysia and my personal experience on compassion in healthcare. Furthermore, I developed an assessment tool (question guide) to be used in a country mission in Honduras within the University Research Co (URC) and USAID-ASSIST project. This project is focused on integrating routine QI approaches to strengthen public health emergency preparedness and response in Zika outbreaks. Therefore, the country mission will be to test a proposed framework for the above concept. Also, I had to update the ‘question box’ which I had earlier co-developed for use in Timor-Leste (TL). This update was made using inputs gathered during the situational analysis of the Timore-Lest health system, jointly conducted by the TL, Macau colleagues and WHO QSR team.


Louis Dec 5


It was a great delight to meet with my fellow colleague, Dr Wafa Allouche, who started her internship at WHO/HQ as part of the Emerging Leader Programme in late October. She has been a great companion as we both shared ideas and strategies to deal with the work pressure from the unit, and the ELP as a whole. We had the privilege of receiving ISQua CEO (Dr Peter Lachman) and the head of strategic partnerships (Elaine O’Connor) at WHO headquarters in Geneva. Their advice and support during this supervisory visit was very timely and helped to refocus our objectives and future plans regarding the Emerging Leader Programme (ELP). Just as Peter cautioned, “The journey has just begun, and it never ends”, the EL journey is a lifelong commitment to quality improvement in Health. He further proposed strategies on how to strengthen the African Community of Practice (AfCop) for quality, and urged us to submit abstracts for Cape Town 2019 ISQua conference. Besides, we received words of encouragement and lovely Irish chocolates from Elaine.


Louis Dec 6


Amidst the tight schedules and close deadlines, Wafa and myself found time to visit the museum of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in Geneva. It was a thought-provoking moment as we visited the exhibitions and listened to the devastating events in history through which the Red Cross movement was found and has served to transform the lives of victims of war, social injustice, natural disasters and epidemics around the world.


Louis Dec 7


Most striking were the testimonies of victims, picture tracing (for unidentified Rwandan children), Red Cross letters (used by victims to connect with their families) and the iconic crafts that were donated as gifts to the Red Cross movement by prisoners. It was difficult to hold tears from rolling off one's cheeks as I reflected on the misery, suffering and killings that bad leadership has inflicted on mankind. I could not help but join in forming the longest digital human chain to condemn social injustice.


Louis Dec 8


It has been a wonderful experience at the WHO headquarters, in particular, and Geneva as a whole. I have learned a lot from the QSR team and from the entire leadership of WHO. Special thanks to Dr Shams for sharing his office with me throughout my internship. As I prepare to give a presentation to the QSR team on my learning during these few months, I feel more challenged putting all this learning in a few slides. But in any case, I must tell my story and it surely will be a good one.


As the trees go bear in preparation for winter and the Christmas bells begin ringing, a feeling of nostalgia grips me by the day. I miss my family and look forward to be reunited with them. Besides, I hope to leave Annemasse before the wave of protest by the ‘Gilet jeune’ in Paris metastasises to obstruct traffic between France-Geneva.


My profound gratitude goes to ISQua, the QSR unit and the entire WHO team.


Merry Christmas, and a quality-conscious New Year 2019 to all ISQua members and the entire family of quality in healthcare.






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