IOM and EAC Join Hands to Tackle Infectious Diseases
Extensive land borders, along with previous disease outbreaks, make the six-member East Africa Community (EAC) susceptible to communicable infections such as cholera, measles, rift valley fever, yellow fever and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever.
However, thanks to a financial contribution of 1.5m EUR from the German government, over one million people are due to benefit from a set of health and hygiene promotion initiatives. Nineteen hand-washing facilities are also due to be installed in hot spot areas.
The funding will allow the EAC to collaborate with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in strengthening the capacity of member states to prevent and address infectious diseases in identified areas in the region.
The EAC sits in the Great Lakes region and consists of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Access to clean water remains a challenge for a large number of people and more disproportionately to vulnerable groups in the region. Due to strained health systems – not least from COVID-19 - a disease outbreak can have a major impact to the economies of the member states.
“The project aims to increase awareness and enhance health and hygiene protective behaviours and practices to prevent and respond to the spread of infectious diseases including COVID-19,” said EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki.
Targeted by the project are cross border communities, areas along transport and water ways, fragile urban communities, together with truck drivers, boda-boda riders, taxi drivers and migrants.
It will also include community leaders and local authorities such as border officials dealing with customs, immigration and port health.
The project, which runs until December 2022, will contribute to the implementation of the EAC’s COVID-19 Response Plan (2020), as well as IOM’s COVID-19 Strategic Response and Recovery Plan launched in April 2021, together with relevant regional plans.
Preparations started in June 2021 through close coordination between EAC and IOM at regional and country level while in July the team started collecting baseline data from households, points of entry and health facilities along selected borders and communities to guide field operations.
“The collaboration with EAC is placed within a memorandum of understanding between IOM and EAC and aims at improve migration management in the region,” said IOM’s Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa Mohammed Abdiker.
The health intervention is funded through the ‘Support to Pandemic Preparedness (PanPrep)’ project which is implemented through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
Mr Abdiker added: “Through the support of GIZ we had started this regional initiative addressing urgent and critical gaps of hygiene and access to water at points of entry and along mobility continuum to also facilitate trade and commerce among EAC countries.”