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‘Govt committed to eliminating diseases’

TANZANIA has reiterated its commitment to eradicating zoonotic and other diseases, which are difficult to control.

Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu said on Tuesday that the country remained steadfast to ensure such diseases were put under control.

“We are focusing on these diseases and we don’t want to leave behind a trail of destruction,” assured the minister after the launch of a cross-border field simulation exercise (FSX) on Namanga Border.

The minister further said the country was ready to control Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and Dengue, which were wreaking havoc on some parts of the country. She said her office had tested systems to monitor the spread of such diseases in the country.

“In principle we are ready, that is why we are checking our systems,” she said.

Commenting on the fourday exercise, which sought to assess the preparedness and responsiveness of EAC Secretariat, Tanzania and Kenya, the minister said FSX took into account lessons learned by East African experts deployed to West Africa between 2014 and 2016 to help fight the biggest Ebola virus disease outbreak, the world had ever seen.

She reminded the audience that the EAC Region had experienced various outbreaks of Ebola, Rift Valley, Marburg and Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic fevers, cholera, polio and plague, among others, which were cross-border in nature.

She informed the meeting that for the first time the concept of risk and crisis communication was also applied in this FSX.

The minister disclosed to participants that FSX implemented a decision taken by the Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health in 2015. It follows the one-health approach that involved key disciplines and sectors of society, which were affected by an outbreak and could contribute to the prevention and response to it.

Up to 75 per cent of infectious diseases are transmitted between animals and humans. Ms Mwalimu emphasised that disease outbreaks affected not only the lives and livelihoods of people, but also agriculture, trade and tourism as important revenue sources in the region.

“It is, therefore, important to involve these sectors in the prevention, response and mitigation through this multi-disciplinary and multisectoral disease management approach,” added the minister.

For her part, World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Tigest Ketsela Mengestu, said each of the 47 countries within the organisation’s African Region was at risk of health security threats.

“Every year, the region records more public health emergencies than what is recorded in other WHO regions… a recent evaluation of temporal trends indicates that the risk of emerging infectious diseases has gone up,” she noted.

According to the WHO representative, infectious diseases in EAC do not only spread faster, but also appear to be emerging more quickly than ever before.

EAC partner states, namely Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan are said to be sharing a similar disease profile. In 2007, for instance, RVF outbreak was reported in both Kenya and Tanzania, resulting to 1,000 cases and 300 deaths.

The launch of FSX comes a day after WHO reported that a five-year-old boy in Uganda has been diagnosed with Ebola.

According to the global health agency, such was the first case confirmed in the country amidst a deadly outbreak in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

A number of international agencies will take part in the four-day exercise, which ends tomorrow.

They include the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), WHO, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and a host of others.

ONCE again Tanzania has shone ...

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Author: EDWARD QORRO in Namanga

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