Zambia has been classified by the World Health Organisation to be at very high risk of importation of cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) from the ongoing epidemic of the disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to the heightened transmission of the virus in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. The WHO Regional Office for Africa is therefore supporting the 10 countries bordering the DRC to heighten vigilance by strengthening capacity for preventing, detecting, investigating and responding quickly to potential Ebola threats. This is in line with the WHO Regional Strategic Plan for EVD operational preparedness and readiness in countries neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo for June 2018 – February 2019.
At the invitation of the Ministry of Health, the WHO Regional Office and the WHO Country Office Health Emergencies (WHE) clusters are supporting the country to train a multi-disciplinary team of trainers of Rapid Response Teams. The training which is taking place in Livingstone from 29-October to 2-November 2018 is aimed at imparting knowledge and skills necessary to carry out emergency preparedness and response activities for any potential Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. The participants who are from the Ministry of Health central level and Lusaka province will provide leadership in EVD preparedness activities including cascading the training to other levels to build country capacity including the community. The RRT training covers eight key areas which include: strengthening the multi-sectoral coordination; surveillance for early detection; laboratory diagnostic capacity; points of entry; rapid response teams; risk communication & social mobilization and community engagement; case management and infection prevention and control capacities; and operations support and logistics.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya said that Government considered health as a key investment because a healthy nation was an important prerequisite for the economic development of the country. He stated that government was also committed to enhancing national health security and therefore laid emphasis on building a resilient health system and moving towards Universal Health Coverage through the Primary Health Care approach. “We cannot achieve Universal Health Coverage without Health Security” the Minister said. He added that the training of the RRTs in Zambia was a fundamental investment for Zambia and that the country was keen to have the teams deployed to other countries to support response activities. Dr. Chitalu recognised the important role that WHO was playing in supporting government to strengthen preparedness and response capacities for EVD and other health emergencies.
The cluster lead for the WHE at the WHO Country Office in Zambia, Dr. Shikanga O-tipo who spoke on behalf of the WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita observed that the training was in line with the World Health Organization Regional Office’s transformation agenda and that it prioritized technical capacity strengthening based on evidence and lessons learned from previous experiences.
The facilitators at the training include:
• A team from the WHO Regional Office for Africa Health Emergencies programme comprising technical officers responsible for training, infection prevention and control, International Health Regulations 2005 and country readiness and a technical officer from the Immunisation and Vaccine Development.
• Technical officers from the WHO Office in Lyon in France responsible for training and laboratory and
• A team of local technical personnel from the MOH, the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI), US- CDC, Africa CDC Southern RCC and the WHO Country Office.
The WHO Country Office has committed to continue building partnerships to support the Ministry of Health to sustain implementation of emergency preparedness and response actions across the country. Since the Joint External Evaluation for the core capacities of the International Health Regulations which was conducted in 2017, the country was striving to put in place measures to improve the national capacity for health security with support from partners. Some of the activities include the development of the National Health Security Action Plan, the All Hazard Multi-sectoral Plan, Ebola Contingency Plan and training of Rapid Response Teams at district level.