18 April 2019 - Tanzania is the first country on the African continent to pilot the joint risk assessment (JRA) tool, developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO). As one of the Operational Tools in the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide, JRA supports inter-sectoral risk assessment for zoonotic threats at the animal-human-environmental interface.
The JRA piloting workshop in Tanzania was organized from 26 to 28 March 2018 in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) with funding received from the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Bringing together experts from veterinary services, public health, environment, wildlife authorities and academia, workshop participants assessed nationally relevant risks arising from rabies and anthrax, which are endemic in Tanzania, as well as zoonotic avian influenza, which is circulating in other African countries and may be introduced via trade, cross-border movement or through wild bird migration.
In his welcome message, given in Swahili, Col. Matamwe Jimmy Said, Director of the Disaster Management Unit at the Prime Minister’s Office, conveyed his appreciation for the training that will build national personnel’s capacity to undertake joint risk assessment for zoonotic threats using a One Health approach. He urged participants to actively participate.
Eight national facilitators were trained by a tripartite team on 25 March so that they could facilitate the actual risk assessment exercise, which consisted in following the methodology as described in the tool, using national data to estimate qualitative risk levels for agreed risk questions. Participants were divided into 3 groups, one for each zoonotic disease assessed. “JRA provides an excellent opportunity for all of us to meet and share data” said Prof. Esron Karimuribo, a participant from the Sokoine University of Agriculture. “I really hope we can meet on a regular basis from now on.”
The risk assessment results generated by each group were presented and discussed in plenary on the last day of the workshop. Existing data gaps were identified and ways to address them proposed. Each group was also tasked to make recommendations on risk management and communication measure to be considered by higher management. All these elements were summarized in a written report to be submitted to Tanzania’s One Health Coordination Desk (OHCD), which is under the Directorate of Disaster Management at the Prime Minister’s Office.
The desk will function as Tanzania’s JRA Steering Committee and thus be responsible for operationalizing the technical recommendations. Dr Harrison Chinyuka, Coordinator of the OHCD, attended the workshop himself and expressed his support. “We always talk about operationalizing One Health” said Dr Harrison “but this has been quite challenging in practice. Thanks to JRA we can put the One Health concept into action and generate relevant recommendations on interventions that are agreed by all sectors.”
The agreed next steps in Tanzania to set up JRA as a routine One Health activity will include setting up inter-sectoral technical teams with expertise on specific hazards, establishing a common information repository under the OHCD, where data and information on the priority diseases as well as JRA reports can be easily accessed by all sectors, and further applying JRA at country and also sub-national levels and Zanzibar.