10 October 2018

Zimbabwe: Public Health Event Management in Air Transport Training of Trainers Kicks Off in Harare

A joint World Health Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization Training of Trainers for Public Health Event Management in Air Transport kicked off in Harare yesterday. The meeting, which is taking place at Holiday Inn Harare, has brought together participants from 13 countries: Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. The participation by the13 different countries and the background of the participants is an excellent demonstration of the collaboration between the health sector and the air transportation sector, working together in line with the International Health Regulations Frameworks.

The general objective for the meeting is to enhance the capacities of competent authorities at African Airports, especially those open to international travels to implement a risk assessment approach to public health events, in a consistent manner and assist in determining interventions that are commensurate to the risks, while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. It is expected that at the end of the training, participants will:

- Establish/revise/update national or site specific operational plans and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to manage public health events during air transport.

- Use the Risk Management Model of: event detection and notification; event verification; preliminary "immediate" arrangements; risk assessment; public health Response; and monitoring and evaluation and;

- Organize or facilitate similar trainings future trainings at regional or country levels.

In his speech to officially open the meeting, WR Zimbabwe Dr Alex Gasasira said the meeting was timely and imperative because in today's interconnected world, diseases can spread more quickly and easily across borders than ever before. "The need for such collaboration has been graphically demonstrated by the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa and the recent potential threats of the Plague, Ebola and Marburg," he said. Dr Gasasira also said aviation can be involved in two major ways with public health events; firstly by being the mode by which disease is spread and secondly the aviation industry and the enterprises that support it can be severely affected financially, which in turn can impact national economies. The Principal Director Curative Services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Mhlanga, reiterated the same sentiments. He said that by working together with the public health authorities the risks to both health and business can be reduced.

With the adoption of an all-hazard approach to public health risk, event management in air transport requires a multidisciplinary, multi-sector approach and must be implemented in the context of International Health Regulations (IHR), other intergovernmental agreements and national and regional rules and regulations. WHO develops guidelines, technical materials and training, and fosters networks for sharing expertise and best practice to assist countries in enhancing operational capacities for managing public health events in aviation, in terms of risk assessment, epi-investigation, reporting, adoption of public health measures, communication with national surveillance system, in a multi-sectoral approach.

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