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Ebola Virus Disease Surveillence at Mpondwe Border Post – Bwera

ACoDD Teams visited the Uganda – DRC Boarder and Ebola Treatment Center in Kasese District Uganda  

The AFENET Corps of Disease Detectives (ACoDD) teams participated in cross border surveillance activities at Mpondwe Border Post - Bwera – Uganda. 

The Border region between Uganda and DRC is highly porous. Due to the informal nature of many cross-border interactions in Uganda as many other African Countries, ACoDD Teams led by the AFENET Executive Director – Dr Chima Ohuabunwo, visited the Mpondwe Border post  to observe ongoing activity as well as participate in the ongoing surveillance spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and international health agencies such as the International Federation of the Red Cross, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Cross-border surveillance is key such as to ensure surveillance and screening of the multitudes walking across the Uganda-DRC border. The existing Border Management Agencies have limited patrolling capacity. At such a time when the Ebola Virus Disease is looming the neighboring Kivu District DRC, it is observed that the border-crossing are dominated by the presence of armed soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) rather than health workers from the Ministry of Health. 

Earlier in December 2018, a report from the Social Science in Humanitarian Action: A Communication for Development Platform showed that there are many informal border crossings, including smuggling routes that enable people to cross undetected (often by foot or by boat).  The report states that people were avoiding the formal crossing points to ‘dodge formalities’ and avoid long waiting times, surveillance measures and ‘ad hoc taxation’.  The complexity of implementing border control mechanisms for Ebola should therefore not be underestimated.

Community surveillance conducted by the international partners above, hence proves more effective and can be better with support from the Ministry of Health as well as Rapid Response teams such as ACoDD. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded that at least 740 people have died among the more than 1,100 infected in the epidemic greatly affecting North Kivu Province and Ituri, which began in August 2018.

WHO recommends a declaration of the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”, or PHEIC. This would ramp up the international response with a formal alert that puts governments on notice and helps to mobilize resources and research.

The African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) has recently trained over 60 health workers and surveillance officers to detect and respond to the outbreak.  The ACoDD regional training was held from 1 – 6 April 2019 in Kabarole District, Uganda. 

The training aimed at equipping ACoDD members for field deployment, strengthening participant’s knowledge and skills on relevant EVD technical areas, and preparation of ACoDD members to support the national and district task forces in case of an EVD in Uganda as explained Dr Ben Masiira, the ACoDD Team lead, AFENET.