ETHIOPIA – African Union (AU) Ministers of Health have agreed on joint measures to stop the potential spread of the ongoing Ebola disease outbreak in Uganda and beyond its borders.
The health ministers made the announcement during a High-Level Emergency Ministerial meeting on Cross Border Collaboration for Preparedness and Response to Ebola Disease Outbreaks in Kampala.
The meeting follows an assessment conducted by World Health Organization (WHO) highlighting that the risk of the Sudan ebolavirus spreading to neighboring countries is high due to cross border movements between Uganda and other countries.
Recognizing the importance of collaborative efforts, the Government of Uganda, with support from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and WHO hosted the meeting aimed at managing the current Ebola outbreak in the country.
“The population is mobile due to trade, social and cultural connections. In addition, the country hosts many refugees who continue to keep ties with their countries of origin,” Africa CDC reports.
The meeting concluded with a communique in which Ministers of Health and senior government officials from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda endorsed key measures to prevent pathogen spillover.
“Ugandan health authorities have focused on supportive care for confirmed cases alongside stepping up testing, surveillance, infection prevention and control, as well as collaborating with communities to support disease prevention measures,” said Africa CDC.
Subsequently, the Ministers of Health from 11 African countries agreed on joint measures such as disease surveillance, contact tracing and monitoring, prompt alert notification as well as information sharing.
The leaders agreed on joint plans to carry out cross-border readiness, including raising public awareness and conducting community engagement campaigns including the rapid cross-border deployment of medical personnel to tackle the disease.
They also agreed to conduct joint trainings of emergency responders, as well as carrying out simulation exercises to enhance preparedness and response.
“Uganda has experience in managing epidemics and since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak, with the support of our partners, we have taken measures to limit the transmission of the disease,” said Honorable Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Acero, Uganda’s Minister of Health.
She further said that sharing experience and strengthening collaboration between African countries will enable health authorities in Uganda to respond quickly and efficiently to health emergencies affecting countries across the African region.
“One of the crucial lessons Africa has learnt from previous Ebola outbreaks is that by uniting, we stay a step ahead of the virus,” observed Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
She further said that through sharing information and resources, countries can go from firefighting to building an outbreak firewall and halting the spread of infections.
“The joint efforts agreed upon today place Uganda and the region on the road to breaking Ebola’s grip.” Dr. Moeti concluded.
Acting Director General of the Africa CDC Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma stressed that Africa must work together to plan, prepare and respond to public health threats through resource sharing, regional efforts to build resilience capacity of human resources, strengthening laboratory systems, surveillance, treatment and care.
He further emphasized on the need for collaboration efforts in ensuring health security of the Eastern Africa region and beyond while calling for action to support the implementation of the Africa New Public Health Order.