As the Ebola outbreak continues to wreak havoc in West Africa killing over 5,000 people to date, the East, Central and South Africa Health Community (ECSA- HC) has asked all member states to emulate Uganda and develop robust comprehensive multi-sectoral response plans to manage diseases of public health emergency.
The ECSA-HC is a regional inter-governmental health organization established in 1974 to foster and promote regional cooperation in health among member states. The ECSA region is comprised of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
As the rest of the World commemorated the World AIDS Day today, ECSA used the opportunity at its 8th Best Practices Forum (BPF) to deliberate on a number of public health challenges affecting the region.
Dr. Donan Mmbando, the Permanent Secretary in the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare told the forum that ECSA region was currently witnessing an increase in infectious diseases, causing a global trauma. He attributed the new trend to the climatic changes and destruction of forests where humans are now increasingly having an interface with animals including rodents, according to
The ECSA Health Community applauded Uganda for its strong surveillance and laboratory network in the region which has enabled it to detect and contain hemorrhagic fevers in a short time.
Director General of the ECSA-Health Community, Dr. Yoswa Dambisya, applauded Uganda’s effort in managing epidemics, saying that many ECSA-HC countries faced challenges in preparing for and responding to the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak specifically in the areas of: coordination; communication; cross border collaboration; supplies and equipment logistics management; financing; case management; infection prevention and control; surveillance and contact tracing, diagnostics and community sensitization and participation.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health and the Office of the Prime Minister developed and implemented a Comprehensive National Response Plan for Epidemics and Disease outbreaks coordinated by the National Taskforce.
The Director General of Health Services, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, says the plan emphasizes surveillance, case management and public awareness as cornerstones in the prevention and management of viral hemorrhagic fevers.
Dr. Francis Adatu from the Epidemiology and Surveillance Division shared Uganda’s experience stressing that the country has been able to control hemorrhagic fevers because of its strong surveillance structures that are established up to the community level.
The utilization of the services of the Village Health Teams (VHTs) has strengthened the community surveillance systems as they easily detect diseases of any public health emergencies.
The countries agreed to the establishment of a Regional Emergency Preparedness and Response Task Force on Ebola Virus Disease and other communicable diseases.
They also agreed to harmonize the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Guidelines for screening passengers across the borders/international ports of entry in the ECSA in line with International Health Regulations.