Uganda and Kenya Hold Cross Border Meeting on Marburg Virus Disease

Kapchorwa 10th November 2017- Political leaders, civil servants, health workers and security officers from Kenya and Uganda have agreed to establish mechanisms to share disease surveillance data across districts and borders in order to prevent or control disease outbreaks.

Participants in the one-day meeting held in Kapchorwa district also agreed to operationalize the surveillance and response zonal committees and to develop common epidemic preparedness and response plans. They resolved to establish local community based trans-boundary disease surveillance mechanisms using community structures such as Village Health Teams (VHTs). 

To achieve the above, participant highlighted the importance of across border training sessions on surveillance and to address attitudes of the local community through risk communication. This will go hand in hand with strengthening surveillance in institutions of learning through existing structures in the districts. 

Other activities agreed to include setting aside and ring fencing funds for disease outbreak response in the districts; strengthen regional and district level laboratories to be able to investigate and confirm some of the disease outbreaks so as to save time and improve timely response; setting up a permanent structure and human resources to deal with disasters or disease outbreaks; and organizing regular rotational cross border meetings.

Regional surveillance platforms in Busia, Uganda and Kitale in Kenya will be strengthened and local focal persons such as District Resident Commissioners and Local Council Five Chairmen in Uganda; and County Commissioners and Governors in Kenya respectively will be supported logistically and technically to work on disaster or disease outbreak issues. The media, in both countries, will also be involved in the detection and control of outbreaks. 

“Infectious diseases don’t know borders and a disease across the border is a disease on your border,” said Dr Issah Makumbi the head of Uganda’s Emergency Operations Centre in the Ministry of Health. Dr Makumbi, therefore, presented the Institutional Framework for Cross-border Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response that should be used by the six Member States to address Public Health Events. 

Security officers at the meeting advised health workers to always treat disease outbreaks as national security issues. “Governments can fall, economies can collapse and social order disorganized because of disease outbreaks which makes it a matter of security concern,” said Mr Kennedy Adhola Otiti, the RDC for Kween.

The meeting was necessitated by fact that Uganda and Kenya share a long porous border through which people move easily and frequently and the communities along the border are closely related. In the current MVD outbreak, a suspect case, who was later confirmed, moved between Uganda and Kenya seeking for care from traditional healers. In the process, several people in the Kenyan towns of Alale and Kitale got in close contact with him. 

In view of the above, the meeting aimed at establishing a sensitive cross-border disease surveillance system for timely detection and response to public health events with special focus on Marburg. 

Participants were therefore oriented on priority diseases reporting and investigation. They were updated on International Health Regulation (2005) and relevant articles on public health event notification, surveillance and response, as well as WHO recommendations on travel and trade restrictions. They were also updated on the current Marburg response strategy, progress made so far and challenges.

They later discussed the critical areas of collaboration including social mobilization, surveillance and contact tracing. Finally, they generated consensus on the national and collaborative activities to be undertaken to strengthen cross-border surveillance and overall outbreak response. 

For further information, please contact:
Benjamin Sensasi 
WHO, Uganda 
Telephone: +256772507906
Email: sensasib [at] who.int 

 

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