By: Ismael Kasooha
Prime minister Rt. Hon. Nabbanja Robinah has said that cross-border preparedness in the fight against disease outbreaks is timely and crucial because health security does not know borders.
” From history, we have seen that health security does not respect borders, therefore, we cannot afford to work in silos but must work together.
And at the same time, I am aware of the need to enhance preparedness for Ebola Virus disease within the respective national boundaries of the Member States. The Uganda experience provides an opportunity for us to focus on this critical need and focus to strengthen our health systems as a whole, moving Africa to be exemplary in the face of this threat.
,” said Nabbanja.
Nabbanja was speaking during the high-level emergency ministerial meeting on cross-border collaboration for preparedness and response to Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Wednesday, October 12, 2022.
The meeting was organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and the health ministry, following the outbreak of the Sudan Ebola Virus in Uganda.
On September 20, Uganda declared the EVD outbreak in Mubende district.
The premier said that the presence of the partners signifies the importance the government has placed on this outbreak and the commitment to bring it to an end.
“I thank the World Health Organization and Africa Union for their commitment to our efforts in support of this vital engagement.
We know from past experience and what we have observed over the last years that public health emergencies can have devastating effects not only to the health system but also to social and economic fabric of society. As my Office oversees preparedness and response to emergencies, I have keen interest in the deliberations here today,” said Nabbanja.
She said that Uganda has had a long history of success in the battles against epidemics as highlighted with our response to HIV; Ebola in 2000 in Gulu up to our response in Kasese in 2019 and our recent success in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nabbanja said that this has been due to the excellent leadership from H.E. The President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the heavy investment by the Government of Uganda in building capacity to meet the international standards for National Health Security: to be able to prevent, detect and respond to all public health threats.
“We have leveraged our internal resources, building on lessons learned and support from partners to invest in making our people safe in order to keep the world safe,” she said.
Nabbanja assured the partners that the government is working hard on this and trusts the Ministry of Health for leading the response on the ground to focus on this.
“As we learned during COVID-19, we must respond together to have success. And that is why we are utilizing all parts of the Government to strengthen this response by deploying a whole of government approach to build on the capacity that we have across Ministries, departments and agencies. But we are all aware that to truly succeed against this fight, we must have the community with us. Therefore, we are also using a whole of society approach,” said the premier.
She said that the East African Community provides a platform for us to integrate to improve trade, travel, telecommunication and accountability. This gathering today signifies yet another important milestone in our response and efforts to further integration.
It is the expectation of this meeting that you would start to develop your own preparedness strategies with guidance from our partners from the WHO and African Union. It is also my own expectation that this would begin a much longer discussion on attaining the Regional Strategy on Health Security.
Health minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng called upon people with suspected signs of the Ebola Virus Disease to visit health facilities for early diagnosis, treatment and care before it is too late.
“Our strength lies with the community. I would like to continue to appeal to the communities that Ebola is not witchcraft. Those who have been moving from Mubende to the other districts have been scared that they have been bewitched. Their stories are about witchcraft,“noted Aceng.
She noted that those who have been to the hospital have first-hand information and ‘they are our ambassadors’.
“They will tell you that even when you contract Ebola Sudan Disease, you improve if you are identified early and supportive treatment is started early,” she added. So communities, please do not resist. We have been having pockets of resistance from some members of the community, I am glad that they are now beginning to understand and respond to the health workers,” she said.