In response to World Health Organisation’s Regulations, President Paul Kagame has said that Rwanda increased its level of preparedness against any possible deadly Ebola outbreak from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“In response to the DRC outbreak, Rwanda updated its Ebola preparedness plan. Readiness rose from 55% to 84% from May 2018 to January 2019, as assessed by World Health Organization(WHO),” Kagame told a Health Security Roundtable in Munich, Germany.
The DRC which borders Rwanda in the Western part of the country was recently hit by fresh Ebola outbreak – killing people as emergency responses were increased to deal with the issue.
Speaking at the Health Security Roundtable themed “Health in Crisis – Who Cures?” Kagame blamed continued disease outbreak across Africa on mostly lack of communication, trust and good data for spreading the epidemic.
For instance, Kagame said that when Ebola spread across West Africa, the disease went unrecognized for months, because there was a trust deficit in public health messages that hindered response.
“As a result, the ultimate cost ran into the tens of billions according to some estimates,” Kagame said.
On a difference, however, Kagame said that health professionals in DRC were experienced enough and intact when it came to dealing with the deadly disease.
“One difference is that health workers in DRC have experience with detection and containment. And they seem able to relate effectively to the population,” Kagame said.
The Roundtable is organised by the Munich Security Conference Foundation, in cooperation with CSIS – a bipartisan world’s defense and national security think tank.
Kagame told the Roundtable that the world needs to forge a collective way of dealing with emerging issues in the health sector.
“We have to think rigorously about the link between conflict and epidemics. And how the global efforts can come together with national efforts to support each other.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa struck nations at peace. By contrast, the current outbreak in DRC has remained contained despite insecurity,” he said.
According to Kagame, “Trust, communication, and good data are really the foundation of public health preparedness and response.”
Giving reference to the case of Rwanda where 60,000 trained community health workers are deployed around the country, Kagame told the Roundtable that the approach has facilitated the country to keep track of priority diseases.
“This allows the Ministry of Health to track 27 priority diseases on a daily basis, using an Electronic Epidemic Surveillance and Response System (eISDR).
Some of priority diseases in Rwanda include; Cholera, Bloody diarrhea, Epidemic typhus, Meningitis; Plague, Typhoid fever, Rabies, Viral hemorrhagic fever and Yellow fever.
Others are Non- bloody diarrhea, Malaria, Influenza-like illness; Severe pneumonia in children below 5 years of age, Pertussis and Diphteria, among others.
In case of any outbreak, Kagame said that one of the approaches is conducting simulation exercises involving a wide range of public institutions – including security agencies when called upon.
In addition, President Kagame added, “The University of Rwanda has an advanced field epidemiology training program with CDC based on the “One Health” model, meaning that human, animal, and agricultural disease threats are assessed in tandem.
This is to show that it is within the means of countries at Rwanda’s income level, working with WHO and other partners, to provide adequate health emergency preparedness,” he said.
Rwanda’s health sector budget has increased from Rwf157.5 billion in 2014 to Rwf193.6 billion last year – reflecting an increase of 22.9%.