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Uganda starts study on Ebola, Marburg and Meningitis

By John Agaba

Added 17th April 2018 07:06 PM

The study will be conducted simultaneously in Uganda and Guinea.

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Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Health and coordinator of the pilot study on epidemic, Dr. Allan Muruta addressing the press as the lead advisor outbreak and epidemic at the African Union, Robert Kwame Agyarko and head of data science Nita Madhav look on. PHOTO: Ramadhan Abbey

The study will be conducted simultaneously in Uganda and Guinea.

Africa will learn from Uganda again, when a newly commissioned continental study on selected pathogenic diseases including Ebola, Marburg, Meningitis, and Lassa Fever is concluded sometime next year.

The study by African Risk Capacity Outbreak and Epidemic (ARCO&E) Programme — a subset of the African Union — seeks to model epidemic risk for the pathogens, optimise early warning systems, create contingency plans for rapid response and open access to quick disbursing financing through a parametric insurance mechanism.

The study will be conducted simultaneously in Uganda and Guinea.

Uganda already sold expertise on management of viral haemorrhagic fevers to the rest of the continent , especially in 2014 when Ebola turned into a public health disaster killing hundreds in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — and Ugandan medics were consulted to avert situation .

And this was the thinking — Uganda already has expertise in fighting VHFs — which largely influenced selection of the East African country to play the core in the continental study.

Dr. Henry Mwebesa, acting Director General of Health Services, said at the commissioning of the study in Kampala: “Uganda boasts an array of well-established systems to strengthen outbreak response and management such as the Emergency Operations Centre, Laboratory Network Strengthening, Health Work Training, Strengthened Surveillance and Coordinating Mechanisms.

He said: “the implementation of this outbreak insurance pilot study will allow us, as a country, to demonstrate our leadership in further building regional resilience solutions to public health emergencies and health systems strengthening by contributing to one of the key bottlenecks in outbreak and emergency response.”

The study will also strengthen Uganda’s response to outbreaks and epidemics which have caused significant human loss and economic burden.

“The ARCO&E builds on its success in implementing climate disaster risk financing programmes in Africa; and comes as an integrated system to enable governments to respond early and effectively to public health emergencies,” said commissioner for disease control Dr. Allan Muluta.

Uganda has had its share of public health emergencies over the last two decades mainly Ebola, Marburg, Meningitis, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley Fever, Measles among others.

These have crippled health systems and drawn away health workers, putting a lots of strain on the country, including diversion of financial resources.

But from the outbreaks, especially the 2000 Ebola one, the country has learned well and since made significant improvements in outbreak response and management, leading to rapid detection and control as seen in subsequent outbreaks in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“Despite these advancements, rapid and predictable outbreak funding remains a big challenge,” said Dr. Muluta.

This, in part, delays early and effective response leading to outbreak escalation and delayed control, he said.

The commissioner quoted how outbreak responses are such expensive ventures, but only touched the financial cost.

He used last year’s Marburg outbreak in Kween district as an example.

“Despite the small size of the outbreak, government (spent) sh5.2 billion or $1.4m to control (the virus).

ARC lead advisor on outbreak and epidemics Robert Kwame Agyarko said the national launch marked an “important step in a programme that has the potential to provide our continent with meaningful support and progress in controlling and minimizing the damage done by disease outbreaks.”

“We cannot afford to wait until after disaster strikes – Uganda and the region at large must prepare, and we must invest in saving lives,” he said.

“The World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations Joint External Evaluation calls on member countries to devise and implement innovative funding initiatives to address the issue of outbreak funding,” said the ARC advisor.

“Uganda and Guinea will be the pioneer countries to implement this study in Africa. These two locations were selected based on regional balance and their previous experience with epidemic-prone diseases of international concern,” he said.

Dr. Muluta said the ARCO&E Programme will help strengthen the Ugandan health system by contributing to “our capacity in risk profiling and contingency response planning.”

“This will ensure that we are no longer constrained by slow and unpredictable funding which usually hinders timely response to outbreaks and epidemics at great cost to our vulnerable population,” he said.  Ends….. /


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