EAC Cross-Border Field Simulation Exercise
Joining forces for better health in the region
EAC to convene cross-border Field Simulation Exercise at the Namanga Border
The EAC Secretariat published a warning that higher than normal rainfalls would increase the risk for outbreaks of infectious diseases in the region. For almost two months, it looked like the forecast may not come true, but then the rain started pouring in torrents, transforming roads and farmland into rivers and lakes. The border region between the Republic of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzanian is one of the areas hardest hit by the rains. One morning, Mzee Alatat, a Massai who farms near Namanga, notices that some animals in his herd have fallen ill from what looks to him like Rift Valley Fever.
What is described above is part of the posed scene of a cross-border Field Simulation Exercise (FSX) that will take place at Namanga from 11-14 June 2019. An FSX simulates a fictitious situation under real conditions which could occur at any time. The exercise planned by the EAC Secretariat for Namanga aims to enhance the status of preparedness for and response to infectious disease outbreaks in the EAC region with a focus on Kenya and Tanzania, thereby making the life safer for all citizens.
The East African Community Secretariat has a coordinating and advisory role for the EAC Partner States in preparedness for and response to infectious disease outbreaks that jeopardise public health. In the last two years, EAC Partner States experienced outbreaks of Ebola, Rift Valley, Marburg and Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic fevers, Cholera, and Plague among others. The ongoing Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has so far caused over 1,600 human infections and more than 1,000 people died. It presents a major challenge to the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the people of East Africa. The pathogens that cause these diseases occur naturally in the region and can put the lives and livelihoods of the people in the EAC at risk. Therefore, the region needs to be prepared at all times.
Regular field simulation exercises are required by the regional contingency plan, the policy framework for the prevention and management of disease outbreaks in the region. The simulation at the border between the Republic of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania in which the other Partner States will participate, aims to assess the regional and national contingency plans, the regional risk and crisis communication strategy and related standard operating procedures as well as compliance with the International Health Regulations.
The decision to convene the FSX at Namanga was made in 2015, when the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health directed the EAC Secretariat to conduct a cross-border simulation exercise at Namanga. The majority of the 250 people who are expected to participate in the FSX are drawn from the Republic of Kenya and The United Republic of Tanzania. However, the Republics of Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda will also participate in addition to a number of regional and international institutions and organisations.
The FSX will reflect the “One Health” approach: Between 60 and 70 % of infectious diseases are transmitted between animals and humans through direct contact, via food or vectors and many are influenced by climate. These diseases are called “zoonosis”. The “One Health” approach recognizes and addresses this fact. It is a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach in the prevention and response to infectious disease outbreaks and involves those professions and sectors which are affected by an outbreak or can contribute to preventing it or mitigating its impact.
The “Support to Pandemic Preparedness in the EAC Region” project that is implemented by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) on behalf of the German Government supports the EAC Secretariat in this exercise while the World Health Organization (WHO) is providing technical support in line with its mandate of implementing the International Health Regulation.