AFRICA – East African Community (EAC) members have completed a seven-day simulation exercise to improve preparedness and bolster response to health emergencies.

The simulation session focused on reinforcing disease surveillance at points of entry to ensure all protocols and international health regulations are followed accordingly.

It gathered more than 60 emergency management experts from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan with the purpose of strengthening health systems to withstand the shock of disaster and potential damage from health emergencies.

The simulation involved a practical session at the Kilimanjaro International Airport entailing a realistic disaster scenario which will help attendees build decision-making skills and coordination between national and district level authorities.

In addition, the participators learned designing of operational plans and protocols to contain an outbreak as well as avoid full blown challenges in time.

The simulation exercise also builds upon previous drills with an aim to empower participants to operate the various forms of simulations and make their skills available for the regional pool of rapidly deployable experts.

It comes at a time when the East African Community has witnessed an increase in trade and travel among the countries which presents a risk of rapid cross border spread of diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and German Cooperation (GIZ) collaborated with the five East African countries to organize the first simulation exercise since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The session was a unique opportunity for EAC member states to engage in a coordinated manner since an infectious disease outbreak in one country can longer be seen as a remote possibility as exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are living in an interlinked world as exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. This reality rings so true in East Africa where our people and countries have close socioeconomic ties,” observed Dr David Balikowa, East African Community Senior Livestock Officer.

Subsequently, emergency preparedness will save lives and preserve health as entire economies can be devastated and livelihoods wiped out without effective response

The simulation session sought to address the challenge of recurrent disease outbreaks and disasters facing the East Africa region since country efforts have not produced the desired outcome.

For instance, the East African Community has faced outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, Ebola, Marburg, measles and Rift Valley Fever in the past three years alone.

The exercise was also in line with the International Health Regulations requiring countries to develop capacities in 13 spheres to prepare, detect and respond effectively to health emergencies.

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