Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have come together to establish the first cross border disease surveillance committee under the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health Systems Support (SATBHSS) project. The main aim of this is to strengthen coordination of cross-border disease surveillance, conditions and events of public health importance, as well as joint response to disease outbreaks and emergency preparedness across borders using One Health Approach.
Media coverage on the article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sli0R7BThRI&feature=youtu.be
This first meeting of the committee took place from 09–12 July 2018 in Chililabombwe. During the meeting, Zambia and DRC identified three common cross-border challenges; uncontrolled and/or illegal crossing points (Bilanga), transhipping, and poor sanitation in the market places in and around the border areas. It was agreed that the two countries will develop a roadmap on how these challenges will be addressed. It was further agreed that the two countries will conduct regular (quarterly) cross-border meetings to address issues of common interest with particular emphasis on disease surveillance and outbreak management, based on the One Health Approach model. The first meeting is proposed for November 2018.
The cross-border disease surveillance committee was established between Chililabombwe district of Zambia and Sakania district of the DRC as Zone one and the inaugural meeting was officially opened by the District Commissioner of Chilibombwe, Mr. Paul Mulenga. Terms of Reference (TORs) for the committee were developed and adopted during the meeting and the 2018 annual work plan was developed with clear agreed activities for implementation. In addition to zone one, two other zones were identified during the meeting between the Zambia–DRC border for possible operationalization and these include; Mufulira (Zambia) – Sakania (DRC) and Ndola and Masaiti (Zambia) – Sakania (DRC).
The cross-border disease surveillance committee between Zambia and DRC is being established based on the recommendation that came out from the inaugural Community of Practice (CoP) on Laboratory and Surveillance regional meeting held in Maputo, Mozambique in 2017. The two countries made some recommendations during the meeting which include establishing information sharing platforms that are in line with both countries data and information sharing policies and conduct simulation exercises at least once every year to test the emergency preparedness plans.
A total of 35 participants drawn from Zambia and DRC attended this meeting from varied disciplines and functions of surveillance, animal health, environmental affairs, immigration, customs, authorities, laboratory, clinicians, District Medical Officers, security and communication. A table top simulation exercise was conducted and identified areas of improvement in the two countries preparedness plans.