Makerere University School of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (COVAB) on 12th April, 2018, at Protea Hotel, validated a report on the weaknesses and gaps identified in the inter-sectoral teams from the Government that respond to emerging pandemic zoonoses, such as the recent Marburg Viral Fever outbreak in Kween and Kapchorwa Districts in November 2017. This study was supported by supported by funds from One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) and the USAID One Health Workforce (OHW) Project.
Responding to zoonotic disease solely within a single discipline or sector, limits the understanding of the disease situation, results in poor decision making, inefficient coordination and unsatisfactory response to the outbreak. Inter-sectoral collaboration, (also known as the one health approach), is most desirable, and is now operational under the framework of the National One Health Platform in government sectors that primarily respond to infectious diseases. These are the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). This collaborative approach will enable Uganda meet the goals as required by the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).
The workshop was opened by the Director of Environmental Affairs from the Ministry of Water and Environment who is the current chair of the National One Health Platform and he advocated for the institutionalization of the One Health Approach, which will result in join envisioning and planning at the ministerial level. Prof. William Bazeyo who is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) Finance and Administration (F/A), Makerere University, as well as the Principal Investigator (PI) and CEO OHCEA, urged professionals from various government sectors as well as academia present collaborate with each other and take the message and concept of One Health to the grass root communities where the health challenges stem from. Examples of innovative and easily available forum to be used included social media. The Principal, COVAB who is also the Co-PI OHCEA, Prof. John David Kabasa, in his keynote address stressed that solutions to health issues are dynamic and need to cut across disciplines and educational levels. “People should be molded in One Health right from childhood to higher levels of education,”
The workshop participants included a representative of the Director of Animal Resources (MAAIF), Commissioners from MoH, MAAIF and MWE, Senior Health, Veterinary and Environment Government Officers, Consultants in Wildlife, representatives from National Curriculum Development Center, Deans and Departmental Chairs in Makerere Academia, representatives from CDC-Uganda, FAO-ECTAD-Uganda, USAID Preparedness and Response Project, PREDICT-2 and the USAID Uganda Mission. There was an informative plenary discussion confirming the gaps, weaknesses on the One Health workforce with action points suggested to improve the functioning of the inter-sectoral one health workforce in mitigating infectious health challenges. These findings will be used by the university and other partners (government inclusive) in planning and designing interventions for joint workforce development or enriching one health action plans.
The Assistant Commissioner Information and Communication, (MAAIF), Ms. Connie Acayo, concluded the workshop by reiterating the need for the application of the four “C’s” within the one health (inter-sectoral) approach-Co-operation, Co-ordination, Capacity and Containment of the emerging pandemic threats.
The validated report entitled the “Analysis of the One Health Workforce” was synthesised in close collaboration with government by reviewing several country assessments including Joint External Evaluation (JEE, June 2017) and National Action Plans. A multi-sectoral consultative meeting (22nd to 24th August 2017) utilized the OH-SMARTTM tool kit to strengthen the synthesis report from document review.
Some of the significant capacity and competency gaps revealed by our assessment of the one health workforce as they detect, prevent and respond prioritized zoonoses included: the need for workforce capacity building in management, leadership, communication strategies, risk communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, systems thinking, information technology and informatics. Other gaps pointed towards the need for capacity in disease surveillance, laboratory systems, increasing awareness for the need of one health in academic institutions and a policy framework for the operationalization of the one health approach.