East Africa often experiences outbreaks of communicable diseases such as Ebola, cholera, avian flu and Rift Valley fever that claim lives and destroy livelihoods. These are not only healthcare crises, but also negatively impact on water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods and animal health as well as education and increasingly spread over from local incidence to regional healthcare crises up to worldwide concern. Most of these diseases are so called zoonoses, thus infectious diseases of animals which are transmitted to human beings. In order to prevent pandemics of this kind, the international health community is propagating a cross-sectoral, integrative management approach entitled ‘One Health’ that views humans, animals, the environment and health as a whole and addresses the sources of health risks. The East African Community Regional Contingency Plan for Epidemics due to Communicable Diseases (2015-2017) and the EAC Strategy on Prevention and Control of Transboundary Animal and Zoonotic Diseases (2012-2017) serve as foundation for measures preventing and combating infectious diseases following the One Health approach. The plan for epidemics has not yet been adopted nor put into practice, and there is also no regional approach for risk or crisis communication. The EAC Secretariat (EACS) plays a key role in transboundary disease control and shall be strengthened by the project to improve its support for the partner countries in pandemic preparedness.
Technical support to EACS on disease management, pandemic preparedness and the One Health approach aims at four strategic intervention areas in accordance with International Health Regulations (IHR). Specific services include:
- Institutionalising the One Health approach by introducing it into Technical Working Groups and into syllabi of selected training institutions
- Operationalising the Pandemic Preparedness Plans: assist with the development of Standard Operating Procedures for putting a regional contingency plan into practice and help establishing a database on interdisciplinary health data
- Facilitating capacity development and training measures for EACS staff in surveillance, diagnosis, risk analysis and risk assessment of zoonotic diseases in cooperation with the Friedrich-Löffler-Institute; for establishing and using early warning systems with the Robert-Koch-Institute; and in cross border simulations
- Supporting Networking and improving Knowledge Management through regional workshops on lessons learned about dealing with epidemics in the region; developing a knowledge exchange concept with a virtual platform; creating synergies with projects on related topics in the region; promoting the pilot on establishing an animal disease fund for the EAC region in the context of Green Innovation Centres.