Kasese leaders trained on using the One Health Approach to respond to community health concerns

Over 20 Local Government Administrators in Kasese District together with Wildlife Personnel from Queen Elizabeth National Park have been trained on how to use the One Health Approach to respond to community health concerns. This was at the Leadership Capacity Building in Disease Prevention, Detection and Response held on 30th April -3rd May 2019 at Nyaika Hotel Fort Portal.

The One Health is a collaborative, multi-sectoral, and multidisciplinary approach that focuses on achieving optimal health outcomes by recognizing the interconnection between people animals, plants and their shared environment.

The idea has been embraced globally by World Health Organizations (WHO), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Organizations for Animals (OIE) under the Health and Global Security Agenda (GHSA) as a strategy for promoting the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and environment.

One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) is a network of 16 universities in 8 countries in Eastern, Central and Western African region. Makerere University School of Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (COVAB) and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) are focal points for the network in Uganda. Prof. William Bazeyo, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration- Makerere University is the Principal Investigator.

The Leadership Capacity Building in Disease Prevention, Detection, and Response for Local Government Administrators in Kasese District and Wildlife Personnel from Queen Elizabeth National Park was organized by Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) and College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (COVAB) with support from One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) in partnership with the USAID-funded One Health Workforce (OHW) project.

The training focused on;

  1. Introducing the multi-sectoral or one health strategy at the district level to foster collaboration amongst entities called upon to prevent and respond to events of public health concern
  2. Demonstrating multi-sectoral or one health skills necessary to foster leadership, communication, collaboration and partnership within and across districts in addressing outbreaks and other complex health challenges
  3. Documenting, for the purpose of harmonization and coordination, district level outbreak response procedures, communication, and actions including the dissemination of underlying and governing laws, legal texts and administrative directives in collaboration with the National Task Forces or National Disaster Risk Reduction Committees
  4. Identifying hazards of local, national and foreign origin threatening the health and well- being of communities and;
  5. Preparing district officers and wildlife officers to develop a response plan relevant to their communities.

It was a pilot training through which, participants while sharing their daily experiences in working groups appreciated the role of multi-sectoral collaboration or the One Health approach in managing health-related challenges in communities. During the interactive sessions that were held for four days, participants learned how to identify and prioritize health risks or hazards in communities; prepare risk/disaster/hazard response plans; harness technical expertise collaboratively across technical departments of health, agriculture, natural resources, education, and the administrative departments.

Interestingly, disease outbreaks (human and animal), floods, plant diseases, and pests ranked highly among the challenges with a great impact on the communities.  

According to Dr. Peninah Nsamba-a lecturer at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Biosecurity, Makerere University (COVAB), the training also enabled participants to understand the roles of Local Government leaders in relation to health risks, and hazards.

 “It is getting clearer that solving a complex health problem requires multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral expertise and cooperation such as the one health approach. This training is re-positioning leaders to solve local challenges using a number of multi-disciplinary approaches.  The One Health approach holds a lot of promise in mitigating public health threats,” she said.

The collaborative communication, community and resource mobilization during outbreaks, hazards and disasters were also among the critical areas that were discussed.

Over the past years, Kasese district has experienced frequent hazards and disasters such as disease outbreaks, floods, landslides, among others; that has resulted in deaths, damage to property and loss of livelihoods. This has been attributed to the strategic location of Kasese and the activities that are carried out within the district.  

Located in the Western part of Uganda, Kasese District is a hilly area with five major rivers; Rwimi, Mubuku, Nyamwamba, Nyamughasani, and Lhubiriha. The area is predominantly agricultural, relying on farming for employment and income. Kasese district also has industrial potential with two operational mining operations currently mining sulphur, copper, and cobalt at Kilembe. Additionally, the area houses Queen Elizabeth National park- one of the biggest national parks in Uganda. The District also borders the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a presentation he made on, The Overview of One Health Concept: Contribution of the Administrators and Social Scientists, Dr. Paul Ssajjakambwe remarked that the relationship between people, plants, animals, ecosystem and environment in Kasese is so strong and this has rendered the district vulnerable to health risks and hazards.  According to Dr. Ssajjakambwe Kasese district has been hit by disease outbreaks such as Cholera, Ebola, Typhoid, and Anthrax due to the misuse of agrochemicals, animal-human contamination, floods, environment pollution, and Congo-Kasese border interactions.

“The impact, these hazards have left on humans, the economy, especially agriculture, and ecosystems calls for a collective and collaborative approach to find solutions,” he said.  

During the opening ceremony that was held on 30th May 2019, at Nyaika Hotel in Fort Portal, the Resident District Commissioner of Kasese District Lt.  Joe Walusimbi commended OHCEA and Makerere University for choosing Kasese as one of the pioneer districts in implementing the One Health Approach.

“With my team, we are ready to learn how we can bring sectors of wild and domestic life, environment, eco-system, and human life on board to forge a collaborative solution for the looming health hazards and disasters in our district. If we can have a tool that can bring together these various respective sectors to solve the health problems, we shall have achieved much,” he said.

On behalf of participants, Lt. Walusimbi thanked Makerere University for initiating the capacity building in the in-service government workers that is going to positively impact Kasese Community.

 The departments that participated in the training were; Office of the; the Resident District Commissioner, Chief Administrative Officer; District Planning, Town Clerk, Mayor and the District Chairperson. Departments included; Health, Veterinary, Agriculture, Education, Natural Resources and Water.

The Leadership Capacity Building in Disease Prevention, Detection and Response for Local Government Administrators in Kasese District and Wildlife Personnel from Queen Elizabeth National Park will be concluded on Friday 3rd May 2019. At the end of the training, participants are expected to have mapped out the priority risks in their communities and developed a tool that will guide them while implementing the One Health Approach.

 Article by Nabatte Proscovia, Makerere University Public Relations Office.

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