The World Health Organization in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Zanzibar, has trained 56 rapid responders in Zanzibar to effectively respond to public health emergencies in the islands and beyond. This is part of the effort to ensure that each African country is equipped with knowledge and skills to respond to public health emergencies within 24 to 48 hours of an incident.
The training which was held for four weeks consists of four modules that include public health emergency operating center module, humanitarian and health cluster coordination, gender-based violence and rapid response Teams modules which aim to ensure that each African country is prepared for health emergencies and humanitarian crises.
According to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health in Zanzibar, Dr Fatima Mrisho, Zanzibar like many countries is prone to health emergencies hence it requires strong coordination and training for proper preparedness, prevention and in the case of an outbreak, timely response.
“I want to thank WHO for this very important training. It has come at an opportune time when the country is addressing some emergencies. With more trained rapid responders, Zanzibar is more than geared up to tackle and beat any outbreak or public health emergencies efficiently within the first 24 to 48 hours of confirmation”, She underscored.
Currently, every country in Africa has 1 to 4 public health emergencies and/or humanitarian crisis that are ongoing at any time. This includes outbreaks (about 80%) such as COVID-19, Measles, Cholera, Yellow Fever, Meningitis, cVDPV, Monkeypox, Ebola and Marburg Virus Disease. Others are humanitarian crises (about 20%) such as civil war, drought, destructive floods, and cyclones.
The acting Country Representative, Dr Yoti Zabulon noted that the relevance of the African Volunteers Health Corps (AVoHC)-SURGE training is a very important course because it builds the skills and competencies of the country’s rapid responders to be able to manage emergencies efficiently. He further noted WHO’s commitment to mobilizing resources to support the country to implement the rest of the Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) flagship initiatives as captured in the roadmap that was developed in December 2022.
“WHO will continue working with the Government of Zanzibar and other partners and stakeholders to build a strong, multidisciplinary workforce for health emergencies in the country. This includes support to teams that may be deployed to respond to emergencies within and outside the country.
Tanzania is one of 17 countries currently implementing the flagship initiative. In Zanzibar, WHO AFRO completed a Scoping Mission (7-11 November 2022) for the Flagship, during which a 2-year roadmap for implementation was drafted. WHO is supporting the Government to continue with the implementation of activities as outlined in the roadmap.
As part of SURGE, Zanzibar is developing a multidisciplinary roster of experts who are highly trained, equipped and supported to rapidly respond to public health emergencies. Roster members will primarily respond to emergencies occurring in Zanzibar, such as outbreaks of infectious diseases and disasters. They may also be requested to respond in neighboring countries.
For the Executive Director of the Zanzibar Disaster Management Commission, Mr. Makame Khatib, the training was very important and crucial as it further achieves a pillar in the Commission which focuses on equipping human resources to strengthen the health system.
Similarly, the WHO Liaison Officer to Zanzibar, Dr Andemichael Ghirmay Redae, expressed: “This AVoHC-SURGE training is a huge milestone for Zanzibar. However, cascading the knowledge and competencies learnt is vital to ensure that Zanzibar experiences its full benefits. I want to encourage everyone, to influence others with the knowledge and skills attained in this training.” He also urged to work with pre-service training institutions to ensure sustainability of such trainings.
Participants expressed utmost appreciation for the knowledge and skills they attained through the training. They pledge to put all the lessons to effective use. “This opportunity is one I am very grateful for. We learnt new things and unlearned the wrong things we were practicing. My favourite part was the practical simulation exercise which was an eye-opener on the real approach to effectively respond to health emergencies. Thank you WHO and Ministry of Health for this timely training”, Samira Suleiman Khamis, a surveillance officer and a participant recounted.
The 24 days of training ended with an intensive simulation exercise on all the modules participants received.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization – United Republic of Tanzania.