WHO and CDC support the Ministry of Health to strengthen capacity for detection, investigation and response to Ebola Virus Disease in districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo

from World Health Organization
Published on 18 Sep 2018 View Original

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Beni, North Kivu province poses a risk of the disease spreading beyond the borders of the country to its neighboring countries including Zambia. It is for this reason that the WHO Country Office in collaboration with the US Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and Africa CDC has provided financial and technical support to the Ministry of Health through the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) to strengthen capacity for prevention, detection, investigation and response to Ebola Virus Disease in districts bordering the DRC. Zambia is particularly at high risk of importation of cases due to the cross-border movement of people and goods. In addition, the country hosts several camps of refugees fleeing from the civil unrest in Eastern DRC and has continued to receive more refugees even during the on-going EVD outbreak.

The Ministry of Health working with other partners has completed the training of multi-disciplinary Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) in EVD from thirty one districts in Luapula, Northern, Copperbelt and North Western Provinces. A total of 86 health workers were trained in the Northern and Luapula provinces from 13 to 18 August 2018 while 216 health workers were trained in North-Western and Copperbelt provinces from 1st to 8th September, 2018. The composition of the health workers trained in all the districts included environmental health officers, doctors, clinical officers, nurses, public health officers, pharmacists and laboratory personnel. This training has equipped the health workers with knowledge and skills necessary to carry out emergency preparedness and response activities in the event of an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease. They have also been equipped to sensitize other health workers and stakeholders including the community in emergency preparedness and response activities.

Speaking at the training which was conducted in North- Western Province in Solwezi district, The Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya stated that government attached seriousness to the threat of the EVD due to the long border Zambia shared with the Democratic Republic of Congo. He emphasised the need for the country and the region at large to take action to ensure health security. He said that the Ministry of Health and the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) in particular, were charged with the responsibility for national health security and that the training of district RRTs was timely. The minister applauded the support that WHO, US CDC and Africa CDC were providing to MOH to strengthen national efforts aimed at improving the national health security status.

The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita said that disease surveillance and intelligence complimented by laboratory support were key in ensuring a functional and viable national health security system. He emphasised the fact that there was a high risk of importation of EVD into the country due to cross border movements hence the need to heighten the cross border surveillance and collaboration between countries. He reiterated WHO’s commitment to working with other partners in supporting the country to improve its capacities for ensuring health security in line with the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005).

The provincial minister, for North Western Province, Honourable Nathaniel Mubukwanu thanked the WHO, US CDC and Africa CDC for working with the government in building capacities for prevention, preparedness and response at the local level and for raising the alert and index of suspicion for EVD in the communities and health facilities.

The specific objectives of the training were to: Create a good understanding of EVD, increase capacity for detection of EVD cases, create capacity for epidemiological investigations to confirm or deny an outbreak of EVD; maintain safety through compliance to Infection Prevention and control standards, enable RRTs to act within a functional multidisciplinary team at the request of the public health authority; optimize monitoring activities and properly manage monitoring data. Other elements included in the training included: EVD case management, safe laboratory sampling of EVD suspected and confirmed cases, case search for EVD, contact tracing, community engagement and communication, safe and dignified. The training for district RRTs is expected to be scaled to Central and Lusaka provinces.

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