Uganda to host maiden regional biosafety conference

Nov 10, 2016

It will examine member states' strategic preparedness and response capacities and identify gaps for action.

PIC: Health minister Dr. Ruth Aceng addressed a press conference on the upcoming regional meet on biosaftey and biosecurity. (Credit: Roderick Ahimbazwe)

KAMPALA - The inaugural biosafety and biosecurity regional conference that will be held in Uganda next week will focus on developing mechanisms to counter bioterrorism amidst disease outbreak in the East African region.

It will take place in Kampala at the Sheraton Hotel on Monday and Tuesday.

Health minister Jane Aceng told journalists on Thursday there is need to worry about the rise of bioterrorism in the region considering the recent outbreak of fatal emerging and re-emerging diseases commonly spreading from animals to humans is fatal.

These diseases also spread quickly and widely.

"While these diseases have largely been attributed to the interface between human, animal, and environmental ecosystems through economic activities like agriculture amidst increasing populations, the fear of bioterrorism is another growing threat to global public health," she said.

Aceng added that with the growing rate of regional terrorism groups, bioterrorists are on the lookout for agents such as Ebola, Anthrax, Marburg, Congo Crimean Fever, Rift Valley Fever, and Multi Drug Resistant strains to use as weapons of mass destruction.

She said the conference comes in at a time when the region is struggling with weak bio-banking systems, emerging and re-emerging bioterror prone agents amidst poor animal health management systems, weak sector-based containment capacities and fragmented response abilities.

Minister Aceng said Uganda has established a five-year Global Health Security Agenda roadmap. (Credit: Roderick Ahimbazwe)

Biosecurity is a set of preventive measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases in humans, animals and harmful crop pests, invasive alien species and living modified organisms.

Biosafety and biosecurity are critical components of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an international partnership that aims to create a world safe and secure from infectious diseases.

GHSA was launched in 2014 with more than 50 countries endorsing it. Uganda is one of the pioneer countries to endorse it and it is also one of the two member serving countries on the Global Health Security Advisory Committee (GHSAC) from Africa.

Aceng said the country has so far established a five-year GHSA roadmap to strengthen the capacity to detect and respond to global public health threats.

She said her ministry with support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also been able to enhance the capacity of public health laboratory system, diagnostic and specimen referral networks to quickly detect and respond to disease outbreaks.

The two-day conference will be held under the theme, 'Bioterrorism in East Africa Region; Are we ready? Examining strategies for Biosafety and Biosecurity multi-sectoral collaboration'.

It will examine member states' strategic preparedness and response capacities and identify gaps for action.

Regional government ministers, directors of relevant government agencies, security experts, researchers and the academia are expected to attend.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});