East Africa: Lawmakers Want EAC to Develop Common Policy Against Epidemic Diseases

15 September 2019

Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) who held a meeting in Kigali on Friday to discuss regional countries' preparedness for Ebola and Dengue fever are concerned that there is no common regional policy, practice or guidelines on responding to an outbreak of epidemic diseases.

Aden Omar Abdikadir, Chairperson of the Committee on General Purpose, said this after his team wrapped up a meeting of the Committee on oversight of EAC countries' preparedness for Ebola and Dengue fever.

The lawmakers want the six-member East African Community (EAC) to develop a common policy on the preparedness and response to epidemics such as Ebola and dengue fever.

"This is an issue of great concern. We will be tabling a report to the house in the coming session. Without a common policy or response guideline, it's difficult to counter major outbreaks of such diseases."

As it is today, the lawmaker noted, every country has its own plan but these plans need to be synchronized "so that we have one common EAC countries' coordination approach" to such disasters if they occur.

"We know that the EAC might grow very soon as DR Congo has shown interest in joining the bloc; this brings a good opportunity for the people of EAC but also a threat because, with free movement of people, such diseases can be spread quickly thus a common approach is always good.

In June, DR Congo put in a formal request to join the EAC.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the vast country is currently grappling with the world's second-largest Ebola epidemic on record, with more than 2,000 lives lost and 3,000 confirmed infections since the outbreak was declared on August 1, 2018.

Abdikadir said his committee was going to propose to the Assembly to urge the Council of Ministers to establish such a policy or a regional agency for that purpose.

During their three-day session in Kigali, the regional lawmakers interacted with various health officials who acquainted them with Rwanda's readiness to counter epidemic diseases, including Ebola.

In Rwanda, the government embarked on robust community awareness and mobilization, vaccination of front-line workers, creating Ebola treatment centers, and robustly stepped up surveillance.

The WHO has commended Rwanda on its Ebola preparedness efforts.

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