The continued occurrence of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease in the East African Community (EAC) Partner States such as epidemics of cholera and yellow, Rift Valley, dengue Marburg and Ebola virus fevers, amongst others threatens human and animal health but also the overall socio-economic wellbeing of the region. With evidence that about 70% of the emerging and re-emerging diseases have animal origin, the 9th Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health held in April 2014 and the 29th Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers held in August 2014 adopted the One-Health‖ approach as a multi-disciplinary way of preventing and controlling communicable diseases especially those that can cause epidemics and pandemics. This contingency plan does not only promote this approach but also incorporate strategic lessons from recent epidemics and pandemics such as integration of risk and crisis communication, psychosocial support and other non-medical operational interventions into preparedness and response plans.
The 16th Ordinary Meeting of the Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health approved the EAC Regional Contingency Plan for Epidemics Due to Communicable Diseases, Conditions and other Events of Public Health Concern 2018 – 2023 as the primary instrument for strengthening regional leadership, governance and coordination of health emergencies in the region with a view of supporting national level emergency preparedness, response. recovery, and rehabilitation efforts. The scope of the plan includes zoonotic and non-zoonotic infectious diseases, other conditions and events of public health concern.
The contingency plan outlines the requisite competencies and steps necessary in addressing these emergencies across the region and emphasizes collaboration and partnerships across sectors. It lays a foundation for adequate planning and effective mobilization and use of resources and synergies. The plan is consistent with the mandate of the EAC Secretariat to offer advisory and coordinating support to EAC Partner States in combating epidemics and emergencies as provide in Articles 118 (on human health) and Article 108 (on control of animal and plant diseases) of the Treaty for establishment of the EAC. It is also in line with the requirements of the International Health Regulations and the Global Health Security Agenda.
The plan envisages the establishment of a crisis management structure consisting of officers and teams to implement emergency preparedness and response in the region and shall be coordinated and facilitated by the EAC Secretariat‘s Health Department, in collaboration with the EAC Livestock Division and other departments such as in Environmental and Natural Resources, Tourism & Wildlife and Trade. It identifies the key stakeholders as Partner States‘ ministries concerned with human, animal, and environmental public health emergencies, along with other emergency-related agencies and ministries. Other key drivers that will underpin the successful implementation of the plan include the private sector, Civil Society, communities as well as development partners.
The entire leadership of the EAC is fully committed to the successful implementation of the EAC Regional Contingency Plan for Epidemics Due to Communicable Diseases, Conditions and other Events of Public Health Concern 2018 – 2023. I wish to take this opportunity to call upon all individuals, organisations and stakeholders involved in the one health to do what is in the power to support the East African Community and Partner States as they implement the plan.