EAST AFRICA – The governments of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have held a consultative meeting to discuss the multisectoral cross-border coordination and collaboration between key different stakeholders of the three countries in addressing common public health threats.   

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), WHO Ethiopia played a lead convening role alongside the Somali Region Health Bureau in the planning as well as conduct of the cross-border coordination meeting and will continue to facilitate future coordination forums and mechanisms.

The cross-border coordination meeting held in Dollo Ado, a border town between Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, saw the participation of notable officials from United Nations (UN) agencies, government, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and non-government organizations.

The tri-border area where Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia converge was selected to host the coordination meeting as it is a dynamic area that serves as a regional corridor and hub of commerce and livestock trading critical to the sustenance of the Horn of Africa.

Furthermore, the area known as the Mandera Triangle is inhabited mainly by cross-border mobile populations (CBMPs) who make up a significant proportion of the population of the border localities of the three countries.

While it is straightforward for clinical and public health workers to meet a static population’s health needs, it is often difficult to deliver care to Cross-border mobile populations (CBMPs) or monitor their health outcomes.

Cross-border mobile populations include mobile pastoralists, refugees, seasonal cross-border laborers, persons engaged in cross-border economic activity, undocumented migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and communities that host refugees and IDPs.

The participants at the cross-border coordination meeting held in Dollo Ado talked about strengthening the cross-border coordination mechanism, improving prevention of cross-border spread of diseases along with the harmonization of disease surveillance and early warning systems.

In addition, the distinguished officials considered initiating a joint response to transboundary health threats to institute health partnership and sustainable cross border disease control mechanisms in the context of International Health regulations (IHR 2005).

The purpose of the meeting is to identify strategies and mechanisms for improved cross border health which is critical to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases and continuity of essential health services to the vulnerable cross-border mobile communities.

The meeting availed a unique opportunity for participants to agree on the need to strengthen the cross-border coordination and collaboration initiative while relevant authorities drew action points toward establishing multisectoral coordination in responding to public health threats in the three countries.

WHO-Ethiopia Somali Region Coordinator Mohammed Adem expressed that the major achievement of the meeting was the establishment of a task force specifically assigned to finalize the working documents on coordination structure to be used in fostering cross-border strategic health alliance.

Mohammed Adem MAALIN added that upon completion, the essential documents will guide the coordination and harmonization of strategic health information from various sources with a primary focus on joint decision making and joint actions. 

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