Resilience
Table-top simulation in Tanzania. ©FAO/Elias Ponsiano.

FAO and the United Republic of Tanzania build preparedness for a One Health response to disease emergencies

12/11/2021

FAO supports a table-top simulation exercise to test preparedness, response and risk communication during an outbreak of an infectious disease of public health concern.  

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in partnership with the United Republic of Tanzania’s One Health Ministries – the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (MOLF), Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC) and Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) – under the coordination of the national One Health Platform, organized a table-top simulation exercise from 1 to 4 November to strengthen preparedness, foster collaboration and increase awareness on the One Health approach amongst multisectoral actors at subnational levels.  

The table-top exercise simulated an outbreak of anthrax, a zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis that can be transmitted to humans. It is triggered by changes in local environmental conditions and primarily affects domestic and wild herbivores (such as cattle, sheep, goats, bison, deer, antelope and hippopotamuses); in those species it is usually fatal. Large outbreaks in animals, known as “epizootics,” occur every year, resulting in the deaths of hundreds or thousands of animals and transmission of the disease to humans. In the United Republic of Tanzania, anthrax is considered to be endemic in the Manyara, Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions and it is one of the priority zoonotic diseases in the country. Death by anthrax comes quickly once animals are infected. An outbreak of anthrax in the country would devastate the livestock industry and highly impact livelihoods and food security as well as put strain on the health sector, already overwhelmed by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) as well as other infectious diseases.  

Boosting readiness for rapid and effective outbreak response 

In order to strengthen preparedness and response capacity for anthrax in the United Republic of Tanzania, FAO through its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD), with funding support from the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), provided technical and logistical support to conduct a table-top simulation exercise to test the country’s preparedness and response plan for anthrax using a One Health approach. The simulation was followed by an After Action Review (AAR), which together provide an effective means of monitoring, testing and strengthening the operational readiness to respond to public health emergencies. These exercises involved 25 participants representing animal health, public health, environment (including wildlife), academia and partners.  

Speaking at the workshop, the Representative for the MOLF, Benezeth Lutege, thanked FAO for its support. Witness Mchwampaka, representing the MoHCDGEC, affirmed that the “simulation will strengthen the country’s preparedness and response capacity.” On behalf of FAO, Niwael Mtui-Malamsha said that “the table-top and after action review have provided avenues for One Health teams to identify strengths and weakness of response mechanisms, as well as identify and recommend areas for future improvement.” She further added: “It is important to uphold the strengths and improve on the identified gaps to ensure prompt preparedness and response to potential public health outbreaks by our public and animal health systems.” Speaking on behalf on the national One Health Platform under the Prime Minister’s Office, Valentina Sanga indicated that the establishment of the platform aimed at strengthening collaboration, communication and coordination between sectors in responding to zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance. 

Supporting a One Health approach to fight anthrax in the United Republic of Tanzania  

FAO Tanzania has supported the fight against anthrax by helping the Government to launch a national strategy for prevention and control of anthrax and brucellosis in humans and animals in 2019. The country also piloted a Joint Risk Assessment workshop in Dar es Salaam in March 2018 that brought together experts from veterinary services, public health, environment, wildlife authorities and academia to assess relevant risks arising from rabies and anthrax, with funding received from DTRA. 

The purpose of the table-top exercise and AAR is to assess and further enhance the level of outbreak preparedness, response and risk communication during an outbreak of an infectious disease of public health concern. Therefore, national emergency preparedness and response plans, disease surveillance guidelines, priority zoonotic disease control strategies and respective standard operating procedures that have been developed were tested. Both exercises will familiarize participants on their roles and responsibilities including risk and crisis communication, as well as coordinating multiple stakeholders under a One Health approach. 

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