The EAC Partner States should strongly engage the communities in the border regions, traders, and trade associations in risk and crisis communication measures, the acting Head of Health at the EAC Secretariat has said.
In the light of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern declared by the World Health Organization, the acting Head of Health at the EAC Secretariat, Dr Michael Katende, urged the Partner States to increase risk & crisis communication measures to keep out Ebola fever in the region.
Dr. Katende calls on the East African countries to strongly engage the communities in the border regions in risk and crisis communication measures.
“This is particularly important, as most of the borderline is porous and difficult to control,” says Katende, “informal and formal traders need to know the risk and be able to take informed decisions to minimise it and to actively take precautions,” said Dr. Katende.
The confirmation of a fatal Ebola case in the Ituri province of the DRC further increases the risk for the EAC region of the outbreak crossing the borders.
The Ituri province is only 70 km from South Sudan and even closer to the Ugandan border.
The first three cases of Ebola in the EAC region were diagnosed in Uganda in June 2019 and triggered strong response measures by the Ugandan government.
Trade is vibrant between DRC and the EAC region and can exacerbate the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) due to the high mobility of people and goods.
In a statement extended to Eye Radio, the Partner States have put in place precautionary measures to stop the spread of EVD into the EAC region.
It said these precautionary measures include vaccinating frontline health workers, screening all travellers at points of entry including airports and training the first responders in case of an outbreak.
However, these measures might not be sufficient.
Dr Michael Katende, acting Head of Health at the EAC Secretariat was especially concerned about EVD spreading into South Sudan with its still rather weak health system.
The EAC Secretariat calls upon the Partner States to increase risk and crisis communication by involving the community, religious and other leaders and the media in public awareness-raising.
At the same time, the Secretariat calls upon traders and trade associations and those travelling across the border with DRC to take extra precaution, as the EVD threat is real.
The press statement further said all people crossing the border should cooperate with immigration, health and security officials who are conducting screening at the points of entry and should strictly follow their advice.
The Secretariat said the frontline health workers and members of the affected communities should accept to be vaccinated against EVD for their own protection and to help prevent the further spread of EVD.
The statement also urged people in the affected regions to avoid unnecessary ‘body to body’ contact as this is the main way of disease transmission
The Secretariat said the public should be vigilant and immediately inform the nearest health workers when spotting a person with signs of EVD.
The signs are; fever, severe headache, body weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, and unexplained haemorrhage (bleeding or bruising) from various body outlets like the nose, ears and mouth. This is particularly important along the “green border” where no screening measures are in place.
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