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EAC and IOM join hands to tackle infectious diseases

East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, Tanzania, 26th August 2021: Extensive land borders, along with previous disease outbreaks, make the six-member East African Community (EAC) susceptible to communicable infections, including cholera, measles, rift valley fever, yellow fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever and e.coli infections.

However, thanks to a financial contribution of EUR 1.5 million from the German government, over one million people will be reached with health and hygiene promotion initiatives, in addition to 19 hand-washing facilities due to be installed in hot spot areas.

The EAC Secretariat in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is implementing a project on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) that will strengthen the capacity of Partner States to prevent and address infectious diseases at high risk areas in the region. The project aims at increasing awareness and enhancing health and hygiene protective behaviours and practices to prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases including COVID-19.

COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis and continues to be among the biggest harmful disasters around the world including the EAC region. In the fight against COVID-19, East African Community (EAC) Heads of States recommended limiting transmission and minimizing impacts and threats of COVID-19 through joint and collaborative approaches.

Access to safe, clean water remains a challenge to a large number of people and more disproportionately to vulnerable groups. The lack of clean water increases the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases. The latter can spread rapidly and can affect in a short time large numbers of people, disrupting daily activities, the working environment and social dynamics in affected populations.

Therefore, WASH has been identified as one of the most efficient preventive measures in containing the spread. The World Health Organization's (WHO) Interim Guidance on "water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for the COVID-19 virus" published on 23 April 2020, clearly recognizes provision of safe WASH conditions as essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, sensitization and creating awareness to ensure the safety of communities during COVID-19 is key in this endeavor.

The project targets high-risk groups and areas in the six EAC Partner States, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda that include cross border communities, communities along transport and water ways corridors, urban fragile communities, truck drivers, boda-boda, taxi drivers and migrants. It also includes community leaders and local authorities such as border officials dealing with customs, immigration and port health. The project is expected to reach more than 1 million people with health and hygiene promotion initiatives and install around 19 fixed handwashing facilities in the respective countries.

From December 2020 to May 2021, the EAC Secretariat and the WaterAid East Africa Region Office partnered to implement a COVID-19 recovery project. The focus was on five border posts namely Nemba and Gasenyi at the Rwanda and Burundi border; Holili at the Kenya and Tanzania border, Vurra at the border between South Sudan and Uganda; Busia and Malaba both at borders between Kenya and Uganda. Key interventions were construction and installation of permanent handwashing facilities and awareness creation messages to sensitize border communities and truck drivers and their crews on the importance of handwashing as one of the important preventive alternatives from communicable diseases.

In an attempt to cover further high risk areas for the spread of infectious diseases, the EAC Secretariat has established a new collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in a project with financial support from the German Government through the Support to Pandemic Preparedness in the EAC region (PanPrep) project, which is implemented through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

The collaboration with EAC is governed by a memorandum of understanding between IOM and EAC which aims at improving migration management in the region. Through the support of GIZ, IOM has started this regional initiative addressing urgent and critical gaps of hygiene and access to water at Points of Entry and along major cross-border trade routes to also facilitate trade and commerce among EAC countries.

Preparations started in June 2021 in close coordination between EAC and IOM at regional and country level. In July the team started collecting baseline data from households, Points of Entry and health facilities along selected borders and communities to guide field operation. The construction of the handwashing facilities and the health and hygiene awareness campaign will start in late August 2021. The project runs until December 2021 and the final report will be ready by January 2022.

The targeted areas are Burundi side Nemba/Gasenyi at the border between Burundi and Rwanda, and Kobero and Mugina both bordering Burundi and Tanzania. In Kenya side the sites are Lungalunga at the Kenya and Tanzania border, the Miritini truck parking area in Mombasa, the Eastleigh Urban community and Namanga bordering Tanzania and Kenya.

In Rwanda the sites are Rubavu One stop Border Post between DRC and Rwanda (Petite Barrière and Grande Barrière), Rusumo One stop Border Post between Tanzania and Rwanda, Kagitumba One stop Border Post between Rwanda and Uganda and Rusizi Border Post between Rwanda and DRC, while in South Sudan the project will cover Nimule at the South Sudanese/Ugandan border. Other sites are Uganda side Mutukula bordering Uganda and Tanzania; Kasensero, a landing site located in the South-Western Region within the borders of Uganda and Tanzania and Elegu bordering Uganda and South Sudan. In Tanzania the sites are Kamanga in Mwanza, a fishing landing site, Mutukula in Kagera at the border between Tanzania and Uganda, Namanga bordering Tanzania and Kenya and Unguja harbour port in Zanzibar.

In a letter to Partner States, the EAC Secretariat summarized the expected outcomes of the project as follows:

  • increased average number of targeted groups using the handwashing facilities;
  • installed handwashing facilities at One Stop Border Points or other congregation areas;
  • coordination and harmonization of approaches in place among Partner States.

The project will also ensure that uniform facilities are designed, constructed and harmonised with common prevention messages.

To ensure ownership of the project by the Partner States, two National Focal Points (NFPs) representing Ministry/Government agencies responsible for water resources and the Ministry of East African Community Affairs were nominated by each Partner State. The NFPs are key to successful implementation process of the project and will represent their national governments along the project implementation process.

They will perform their duties within their respective Partner States and work and report to both the EAC Director of Productive Sectors and IOM Regional Project Manager.

The EAC has produced handwashing facilities Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that have already been shared with IOM Country Offices so they can start the procurement processes for the construction of these facilities. The SOPs include construction specifications and awareness creation messages. The facilities will accommodate adults, children and people with disabilities.

The project will contribute to the implementation of the EAC COVID-19 Response Plan (2020), the IOM Strategic Response and Recovery Plan launched in April 2021 and health relevant regional plans. It is also contributing to the achievement of the WHO WASH Strategy and the regional IOM migration strategy for the East and Horn of Africa addressing the health component.

The East African Community (EAC) region has experienced communicable, and water borne diseases outbreaks in the past and is still at risk of future ones. Apart from the COVID 19 global pandemic, the EAC has experienced other preventable outbreaks including Cholera, Measles, Rift Valley Fever (RVF), Yellow Fever, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) and E. Coli infections over the past five years alone. Due to the high human mobility in the region, the communities at the borders and along the transport corridors are continuously exposed to communicable diseases.

For more information, please contact:

Simon Peter Owaka
Senior Public Relations Officer
Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Department
EAC Secretariat
Arusha, Tanzania
Tel: +255 768 552087
Email: sowaka [at] eachq.org

About the East African Community Secretariat:

The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation of six Partner States, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

The EAC Secretariat is ISO 9001: 2015 Certified

 


East African Community
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Afrika Mashariki Road
P.O. Box 1096
Arusha
United Republic of Tanzania

Tel: +255 (0)27 216 2100
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Email: eac@eachq.org