14 April 2016 - The first national FAO component of the USAID funded EPT-2 work planning meeting for Uganda was convened in Mukono district near Kampala on 23rd and 24th March, 2016. The primary objectives of the EPT-2, a programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases that have adverse impact on human, livestock, and wildlife health, such as Ebola, avian influenza and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. In Uganda, FAO’s EPT-2 Programme will address Ebola and other filoviruses in livestock populations. The FAO-EPT-2 activities to be implemented until 2018, aim at building and strengthening basic capacity in animal health to forecast and rapidly respond to emerging disease crises threatening animal or human health. Implementation will be aligned with the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an important global initiative led by over 60 countries. Following a technical consultation meeting on Ebola virus and MERS Coronavirus in Rome in January 2016 and the FAO regional programme launch for East Africa in Nairobi (12th – 13th January 2016) this meeting was the second (after Kenya) in a series of country-level engagements in Eastern Africa in which specific activities were planned and outlined for the period April to September 2016.
The opening remarks were made by Dr. Massimo Castiello on behalf the FAO Representative in Uganda. He called upon participants to realize that Ebola Surveillance Project will serve as a spring board not only for understanding and fighting Ebola but setting a comprehensive force to exterminate most zoonotic diseases including Marburg, Rabies, Anthrax, Brucellosis and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. He indicated that eastern Africa is considered a major hot spot for emerging disease threats for animals and humans. While opening the meeting, Dr Wanderema Wesonga, the Commissioner for Animal Health, thanked FAO for the project and commended the close working relationship between FAO and the Government of Uganda which will go a long way to support and strengthen the Government focus on disease surveillance from a One Health and global lens. He also applauded USAID’s support through the EPT2/Global Health Security Agenda. Dr. Wesonga underscored the fact that during the past decade, 70% of pathogens affecting humans originate from animals and mainly wildlife. This calls for the adoption of a global One Health strategy to address zoonosis, he stressed. He also underscored the importance of effective surveillance backed by action to produce viable development outcomes.
The meeting was attended by senior staff from the Departments of Animal Health and Animal Production and Marketing, Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), representatives from the Districts, EPT-2 partners (One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) and Preparedness & Response project (P&R), One Health Work Force (OHW)), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Makerere University. The FAO participants were from the country office, and FAO’s Emergency Centre for Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) unit for East Africa and Headquarters.
Central to the planning process was to identify; (i) country specific activities on Ebola surveillance and detection, strengthening laboratory diagnostic capacities at the central, regional and local government levels and characterization of farming systems and value chains and (ii) collaborating partners for each activity. The meeting ensured that a participatory approach is built into the programme at every step. The participants at the two-day meeting agreed on the activities related to surveillance in domestic livestock (including at the wildlife interface), value chain and production systems characterization, laboratory support, human behavioral studies, risk assessment and risk mitigation interventions.
Building on previously established regional One Health (OH) networks like One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA), regional animal health networks (RAHN), national OH platforms and networks, and, in collaboration with other EPT-2 Partners (PREDICT-2, P&R, OHCEA and OHW) and USAID bilateral projects, FAO while implementing the planned activities will be able to leverage other on-going efforts related to EPT-2 activities.
On behalf of FAO, the Uganda ECTAD Team Leader, Dr Fredrick Kivaria noted that the success of the meeting could not have been achieved without the active participation of everyone involved, from the county level to headquarters, and from wildlife, public health and livestock sectors. He also insinuated that EPT-2 has a very tight timeline, hence the need for collective efforts to accomplish the enormous tasks at hand. “There is no way we can achieve meaningful outcomes if we shall not work and move forward together” he said.
In her closing remarks, Dr Doris Kiconco, on behalf of Government of Uganda, thanked USAID and FAO. She commended FAO for having been a reliable partner in development. She encouraged the participants to take the opportunity to address Ebola, other hemorrhagic infectious and emerging diseases in a way that improves the country’s good biosecurity and biosafety situation.