Better preparedness in the East African Community region
Title: Support to Pandemic Preparedness in the East African Community (EAC) region
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
Country: Tanzania (EAC Region)
Lead executing agency: Secretariat of the East African Community (EAC Secretariat)
Overall term: 2017 to 2019
The Secretariat of the East African Community (EAC) is mandated to offer advisory and coordinating assistance for the EAC Partner States Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda with their 155 million citizens in preventing and combating infectious diseases. While East Africa was not affected by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014-2016, it too frequently experiences outbreaks of the disease with fatalities. The Rift Valley, Marburg, Dengue and Crimean Congo fever, Polio and Cholera pathogens are widespread and can cause outbreaks that may affect public health, lives and livelihoods at any time. The spread of infectious pathogens is promoted by migration and transboundary trade, which is facilitated by the EAC common market, and by the impacts of climate change.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa revealed major shortcomings that accelerated the spread of the disease. These include the lack of rapid, clear and efficient communication tailored to the population and its specific cultural and social background and the absence of close cooperation between various disciplines. Interdisciplinary cooperation is especially important, as around two thirds of infectious diseases with the potential to take on epidemic proportions are zoonoses, infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Preventing and combating these diseases requires an interdisciplinary approach, regional strategies and skills that are lacking in the EAC.
EAC and Partner States give the One Health approach a high priority. It involves sectors affected by and contributing to outbreaks in integrated disease management. The approach is enshrined in regional policy framework documents for pandemic preparedness, but implementation has only started. And although crucial for containing outbreaks, the discipline of risk and crisis communication is not yet anchored in the region.
The EAC Secretariat’s support for the partner countries for pandemic preparedness is improved.
The project helps the East African Community enhance its crisis response capacity. It contributes to putting the regional contingency plan into practice and to develop and implement a regional risk and crisis communication strategy. It advises the Secretariat on integrating the One Health approach.
Together with the EAC Secretariat and Partner States, the project develops a One Health Curriculum on Pandemic Preparedness for post graduates from all EAC Partner States to train urgently needed experts in this field of expertise.
The project offers technical expertise and capacity building for participants in project activities. It is practice-oriented and pursues a participative strategy that involves stakeholders from the EAC Partner States. Thus, the project contributes to a uniform, effective, responsible and balanced approach to pandemic preparedness at regional and national government level.
GIZ implements the project with support from EPOS Health Management and Evaplan. It cooperates closely with German and international institutes and organisations.
To date, the project has achieved the following results:
- East African experts who were deployed to West Africa to fight against Ebola formulated; based on their practical experiences, valuable lessons learned and recommendations that have since influenced political strategy papers and decision-making at national and regional level. For them, the process was also an important step towards trauma management.
- The ‘One Health’ approach is now anchored in the regional contingency plan and risk and crisis communication is integrated in the regional emergency structure as a new discipline.
- Standard operating procedures were developed and make it easier for health worker to implement the regional contingency plan.
- The standing EAC Technical Working Group on communicable and non-communicable diseases was expanded to include not only health professionals but also experts from animal health, the environment, agriculture, trade, tourism and risk and crisis communication with the aim of sustainably integrating the ‘One Health’ approach.