VP calls for strengthened epidemic response

COAST REGION: VICE-PRESIDENT Dr Philip Mpango has directed the Ministry of Health to empower health departments across the country to enhance the nation’s capacity to combat epidemic diseases.

Dr Mpango, speaking from Kibaha District in the Coast Region on Wednesday during the 50th anniversary of the Mtu ni Afya campaign and the launch of its phase II, emphasised the critical need for improved systems and infrastructure.

He directed the Ministry of Health to collaborate with the Ministry in the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) to empower the departments in City Councils, Municipalities and Districts to enhance systems and infrastructure for the detection, control and response to epidemic diseases.

“Empowering health departments will strengthen disease identification, control and response mechanisms. Additionally, it will enhance disease monitoring, diagnosis and preparedness capacities, while facilitating research and improved management systems,” Dr Mpango noted.

Dr Mpango further urged councils to utilise community health workers in the campaign implementation to improve community access, behavioural change and service provision equity. Encouraging citizens to prioritise preventive measures, he emphasised the significance of good nutrition, physical activity, and regular health check-ups.

Stressing the importance of cleanliness, he urged individuals to cultivate habits of hygiene to mitigate diseases stemming from unclean environments.

Furthermore, Dr Mpango called upon media, artists and entertainment groups to play a crucial role in community health education and awareness. He emphasised the media’s responsibility in disseminating innovative messages and ensuring sustainable and measurable health campaigns.

The launch of Phase II of the Mtu ni Afya Campaign coincided with the recognition of winners of the Environmental Hygiene awards for the year 2023 across various categories. With its slogan “Mtu ni Afya: Afya Yangu, Wajibu Wangu,” the campaign underscores individual responsibility in maintaining health.

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The campaign, officially launched by the government in 1973, has been instrumental in the nation’s fight against diseases over the past 50 years, evolving in stages and methodologies to address emerging health challenges. The campaign’s accomplishments include an increase in households with better toilets from less than 20 per cent in 1973 to 74.8 per cent today.

“The second phase will focus on nine areas, including the construction and use of good toilets in schools, health centres, all major transport routes, and important gathering places,” he stated.

He said other areas include handwashing with running water and soap, as well as proper waste and sewage disposal. Dr Mpango further stated that the country will focus on treating drinking water or using special tablets to purify water in accordance with expert guidelines.

“We will focus on ensuring safe menstruation for girls and hygiene services in schools, environmental cleanliness in towns and cities, and providing information to the community to promote a healthier lifestyle and address non-communicable diseases. “In the early campaigns, we emphasised diseases caused by poor hygiene, provided great motivation to citizens to observe good health principles and used various methods to raise awareness about environmental hygiene issues. Now, the situation has changed,” Dr Mpango noted.

Despite this, the Vice-President has stated that the campaign will address noncommunicable diseases, with figures indicating that 9 per cent of Tanzanians have diabetes and four out of ten patients have high blood pressure.

The VP stated that these results differ from those reported in 1980 when one in 100 people had diabetes and one in 20 had high blood pressure. He added that more efforts should be made to combat infectious diseases, as the impacts of heat are linked to respiratory ailments and malaria.

Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, stated that the campaign changes year after year.

“When this campaign completes 50 years, we are launching the second phase with the specific goals of eradicating epidemic diseases, as well as fighting non-communicable diseases,” Ms Ummy said.

She described another accomplishment of the first phase as the strengthening of vaccination services, which had previously been overseen by environmental health specialists, and how the programme had enabled the country to eradicate various diseases, including smallpox, which posed a threat to the world.

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