Uganda, South Sudan commit to end transboundary diseases

Trucks park at the Oraba border point in Koboko. Across the valley is Kaya town in South Sudan. PHOTO | FELIX WAROM OKELLO

What you need to know:

  • The agreement aims at improving collaboration on cross-border surveillance and response against notifiable diseases in humans and animals.

The government has signed an agreement with the neighbouring South Sudan and the DR Congo to prevent and control transboundary diseases. 

The cross-border pact is expected to strengthen coordination and communication on threats to public health and response to epidemics, among the three countries. 

The pact was signed in Gulu City last Thursday after three days of deliberations held between July 2 and 4. 

Uganda was represented by Mr Emmanuel Turyatunga, the commissioner for global health security in the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Michael Mwanga, the assistant commissioner for surveillance at the Ministry of Health, and Mr Emmy Mitala, the Resident District Commissioner for Koboko District. 

The Republic of South Sudan was represented by Dr Joseph Lasu, the director of emergency preparedness and responses and Dr Angelo Goup Thon Kouch, the director of health security and emergency workforce development.

The cross-border deal will facilitate establishing a multilateral framework for surveillance information sharing and response, conduct joint planning, implement and monitor animal and human health at all formal and informal entry points. 

Dr Mwanga said: “We want to make sure that the cross-border zone is very vibrant and they should be having their meetings every month. We shall be able to collaborate better and share our data with the neighbouring countries, accordingly as per our laws so that there is no export or import of disease across borders.’’ 

Mr Patrick Louis Lamot, the cross-border health coordinator at elegu point, said: “We anticipate improved communication, coordination, and timely reporting of diseases, enhanced disease surveillance, detection, notification, and management of diseases, and joint problem solving within our common borders.’’ 

Dr Lasu said: “Articles 21 and 57 of the International Health Regulations mandate all countries to have cross-border collaborations to ensure that we control and prevent disease spillovers to each of the member states. So, we as South Sudan look to a more strengthened collaboration between the countries of Uganda, South Sudan, the DR Congo, and other neighbouring countries to us.’’ 

Mr Mitala emphasised the need for peaceful coexistence so that the goal of the agreement is achieved. 

Dr Mwanga said the country has been facing disease spillovers, including yellow fever, measles, and cholera from the neighbouring DR Congo and South Sudan.

Strategy

The countries also developed an Eleven-Action Point Strategy to mitigate the long history of infectious disease outbreaks rising from massive population movements. 

The move will see the establishment of a health operational mechanism at all points of entry, plan for regular refresher training at the common borders, strengthen screening of people and travellers, an inspection of animals, conveyances, and cargo crossing the border to prevent export and importation of transboundary diseases. 

The engagement was supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the CORE Group Partners Project, and Baylor Foundation Uganda. The solutions will be implemented as specified by the International Health Regulations of 2005.