One Health Multisectoral Coordination Mechanism conducted simulation exercise to test Rift Valley fever preparedness and response
04 December 2020, Kigali — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on 30 September 2020, issued an alert to countries in the Eastern Africa region of increased risks of Rift Valley fever (RVF) both in animals and humans, either due to favorable environmental conditions or through animal movement.
In Rwanda, the last RVF outbreak happened in 2018 in cattle in three districts of Eastern Province (Ngoma, Kirehe, and Kayonza), during which cows died and others aborted. No human cases were reported.
As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the occurrence of RVF in the region would cause additional acute burden to the already stressed health, economic sectors, and food system. Early preparedness and readiness, and commitment of the Government of Rwanda to deal with COVID-19, has yielded results, as the country is now considered low-risk with regards to contracting the disease.
All hands on deck to deal with other disease threats
With the RVF alert now off on the region, Rwanda is heeding to the warning, and is seeking to tackle the disease head-on with early preparedness, detection, and response.
In a move aimed to assess and harmonize capacities and readiness of the country to pre-empt the disease, the Rwanda One Health Multi-Sectoral Coordination Mechanism (OH-MCM) led a two-day (25-26 November 2020) tabletop simulation exercise aimed to assess and further enhance the level of multi-sectoral outbreak preparedness and response in Rwanda as well as identifying strengths, weaknesses, and the necessary corrective actions.
The simulation exercise was co-facilitated by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) with funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (Rwanda FDA), Rwanda Biomedical center (RBC), Rwanda Council of Veterinary Doctors (RCVD), Rwanda Development Board/Wildlife Conservation Unit, University of Rwanda (UR), as well as students in Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FLTP).
The team assessed functionality capabilities of existing emergency systems to be able to prevent and respond to RVF health emergencies. The gaps in information sharing among sectors were identified, while the need to enhance collaboration and Coordination among sectors for better preparedness and response was accentuated.
Under the leadership of the OH-MCM, the RVF contingency plan will be reviewed and turned into preparedness and response actionable plan before the end of year. Meanwhile, RAB has started vaccination, vector control in risk areas and information related to the ongoing sectoral actions will be shared among sectors.
The FAO Representative, Gualbert Gbehounou, referring to FAO’s Global Mandate and its One Health Strategic Action Plan, pointed out that the Organization is a hub of technical knowledge that embraces One Health across its various areas of expertise by managing animal health, natural resources, fisheries and forestry; promoting access to safe, nourishing food; adapting to climate change and mitigating its effects; formulating policies for sustainable agricultural production, and advocating for gender equality.
“About 70 percent of the diseases in humans have origins in animals. The One Health approach is effective in addressing zoonotic disease outbreak like the Rift valley fever and other public health threats. Therefore, we need each other to mitigate emerging and remerging zoonosis. Joint training as this exercise enables us to have a common understanding of the challenge before us and to communicate the similar message across the sectors,” said Charles Karangwa, the coordinator of the Rwanda OH-MCM.
“The exercise was part of FAO’s work to help countries prevent and control Rift Valley fever. Outbreaks have the potential to jeopardize public health, economic stability and the lives and livelihoods. Rwanda need to be prepared and ready to deploy response measures. Simulation exercises have in the past contributed to the strengthening of the national preparedness, readiness, detection and response not only to RVF, but also to any other public health threat,” said Otto Vianney Muhinda, Assistant FAO Representative in charge of Programmes.
“Successful public health interventions require the cooperation of human, animal, and environmental health partners as well as other relevant sectors. No one person, organization, or sector can address issues at the animal-human-environment interface alone. The one health multi-sectoral coordination mechanism (OH-MCM) therefore provides a platform for enhancing coordination, communication and collaboration among the key players. The WHO commits to supporting the One Health agenda in Rwanda in collaboration with FAO and other partners,” said Kasonde Mwinga, WHO Representative in Rwanda.