Airports are high-risk areas when it comes to the spread of infectious diseases. However, when Asma Ali Awadh recently had to fly in East Africa she was pleasantly surprised. ‘I travelled through the airports in Kigali and Mombasa, and the hygiene and precautionary measures in place were exemplary,’ she comments. She should know. The Kenyan doctor is chief trainer for COVID-19 prevention and response training at airports in the region.
In conjunction with the Secretariat of the East African Community (EAC), GIZ contracted the AMREF Flying Doctors to provide training for the staff of 10 international airports. Staff are trained in infection prevention and response. In 2020, almost 250 people from different airport sectors were trained, including check-in, border control and baggage handling. They have now passed on their newly acquired expertise to hundreds of colleagues. ‘That was not something everybody thought of initially – that the virus could also be spread by baggage,’ recalls Asma Ali Awadh. These measures probably protected thousands of travellers from a COVID-19 infection.
Cross-border traffic in a region that is home to 170 million people
With a view to facilitating safe cross-border transport and trade, 350 experts from major ports and border posts in the region were also given training. They too are passing on their newly acquired knowledge. It was possible to adapt the subject matter covered by courses to address the new pandemic situation because GIZ has been supporting EAC, on behalf of BMZ, since 2017 with a project entitled Support to Pandemic Preparedness in the East African Community (EAC) region. The EAC Secretariat coordinates assistance for the six EAC Partner States – namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – in preventing and combating infectious diseases. The training courses at the airports, ports and border crossing points are one example of how the project helps translate the EAC Secretariat’s regional pandemic plan into practice. GIZ is also advising the Secretariat on the preparation of a regional risk and crisis communication strategy and on sustainably mainstreaming the One Health approach in the region.
Asma Ali Awadh, incidentally, was travelling incognito. ‘Nobody knew that I was having a good look to see whether people were actually putting into practice what they had learned,’ she says laughing.
ONE HEALTH IN EAST AFRICA
The One Health approach is based on the finding that human health depends on a large number of factors. This is why, in pandemic prevention and control in the EAC region, GIZ involves representatives of every discipline that is affected by an outbreak of disease, can help control disease, or can minimise the impacts. The aim is to protect human health without losing sight of other factors such as education, business and future prospects. To train experts in pandemic prevention under the One Health approach, GIZ and the University of Heidelberg have developed a regional, interdisciplinary online training course. An advanced course is to follow. The first 25 students in Kenya explored the correlations between agriculture, logistics, tourism and pandemics.
Interview with Mary Stephen
Technical Officer with WHO Africa’s Health Emergency Preparedness
and Response Team
Six months before the first reports of COVID-19 emerged, the East African Community Secretariat worked with WHO, GIZ, KfW and other partners to simulate a pandemic outbreak. Did you foresee the pandemic?
When we launched the largest cross-border Field Simulation Exercise in Africa in summer 2019, we did not anticipate what would await us a little later. After the experience with Ebola, for example, we wanted to test capabilities to prevent and respond to infectious disease outbreaks in and between Kenya and Tanzania. Because it’s one thing to have a plan and, on paper, the capacity, and another to know what really works in practice.
What does a simulation like this involve?
Around 300 men and women – ranging from smallholder farmers to butchers, border officials, truck drivers, lab technicians, doctors, and representatives of government agencies, as well as national and international organisations – spent four days simulating an outbreak of a contagious disease. Just as though it had really happened. The scenario mimicked an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever, a viral disease most commonly seen in livestock, but that can also affect humans.
Were the participants and the many observers from the region able to learn anything that was important for the COVID-19 pandemic?
Absolutely. It became clear how central cross-border issues and communication are and where there are gaps. And we saw how important One Health’s joint approach is – with stakeholders from public health as well as animal health, trade, logistics, immigration, and environmental organisations. We need this broad view to respond to outbreaks at all levels – local, regional, national and international. We are primarily dealing with zoonoses, diseases transmitted from animals to humans, so we need to take a holistic view of the human, animal and environmental interfaces.
Copyright: © Mary Stephen
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 Agenda provide the framework for our activities around the world. Click on a goal to find out which projects in this report are helping to achieve it.
End poverty in all its forms everywhere
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
The 2030 Agenda and its 17 goals are important benchmarks for GIZ.