Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Curbing Ebola in East Africa via Air Transport




The current Ebola Virus Disease scourge in the West African Region has become a global concern with serious consequences. Possible transportation of infected persons by Air Transport is a reality and appropriate measures need to be put in place as a priority. East African Community (EAC) Partner States have individually introduced mechanisms to proactively address the matter in coordination with the Ministries responsible for Health, East African Community Secretariat and the World Health Organization (WHO).

On the 8th August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa Region as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC) under the International Health Regulations (IHR). The WHO further categorized the Republic of Kenya which is a member state of the East African Community as one of the high risk countries for the possible spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) from West Africa to the East African Region.

In this regard, the East African Community Civil Aviation Safety & Security Oversight Agency (EAC-CASSOA) strongly advocates for a regional approach to establishment of methods and strategies towards combating this Scourge bearing in mind the fact that some operators based or transiting through the East African Community Partner States operate direct flights into the affected region. Therefore, CASSOA found it prudent to convene an Emergency Meeting of the EAC Partner States’ National Civil Aviation Authorities and National Airport Authorities to discuss the issues related to this serious matter under the auspices of the Centre for Aviation Medicine. The emergency meeting was held on Thursday, 21st August 2014 at the CASSOA Headquarters in Entebbe, Uganda.

The meeting was chaired by Mr. Harrison Machio, Safety Manager at the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and attended by delegates from:

a) KenyaAirportAuthority(KAA);
b) Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA);
c) TanzaniaAirportAuthority(TAA);
d) Burundi Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA);
e) Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA);
f) Civil Aviation Authority Uganda (CAAU);
g) Uganda Ministry of Health;
h) Uganda Ministry of East African Community Affairs;
i) Entebbe Airport Handling Services Limited;
j) East African Community Secretariat; and
k) EAC Civil Aviation Safety & Security Oversight Agency.

The Agenda of the meeting as presented by CASSOA Secretariat included; the Reports of Current Measures taken by Partner States to combat the outbreak in West Africa through Air Travel and Airport Facilities, Evaluation of the Measures Instituted and the Strategies of Improvements and Report on a Harmonized Approach to address the Ebola Threats in the Aviation Sector.

Mr. Barry Kashambo, Executive Director of EAC-CASSOA welcomed members to Entebbe and particularly to CASSOA and underscored the need to put up joint effort to prevent the possible spread of Ebola Virus Diseases in the Region, while Hon. Jesca Eriyo, Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors at the EAC Secretariat reiterated the effect of Ebola both economically and socially in the Region. She also emphasized that the reoccurrence of the disease in East Africa requires a structured way to handle the threat.

Various presentations were made by various experts including: Dr. Kirunda from the CASSOA Centre for Aviation Medicine who presented the Background Paper on the threat of Ebola Virus Disease in the Region; Dr. Luswa Lukwago from Uganda Ministry of Health who presented the paper on the Uganda Experience on Ebola Virus Disease and Partner States representatives who gave presentations on the Status, Measures and Challenges in addressing the Threat of Ebola in the individual States.

Recommendations of the Meeting

The meeting urged all the EAC Partner States’ National Civil Aviation Authorities, National Airport Authorities and all airlines operating and/or transiting through the East African Community Partner States to adhere to and enforce all the relevant International Regulations and Guidelines from International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), WHO, International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI) with regard to Civil Aviation and International Public Health Measures with particular reference to the following immediate, short- and long-term measures:-

a) Conduct entry screening of all persons at international airports, seaports and major land crossings for suspected cases of Ebola Virus Disease especially those from the highest risk Countries of West Africa.
b) Provide medical advice about Ebola Virus Disease to all travellers to and from the high risk regions of the world.
c) Institute measures to detect, investigate and manage Ebola Virus Disease cases including access to qualified diagnostic laboratory, referral health services, isolation and evacuation.
d) Take measures to ensure the protection from Ebola infection of passengers, airline crew and staff including those working in affected regions of West Africa.
e) Take measures to restrict international travel of Ebola Virus Disease contacts or cases unless the travel is part of an appropriate supervised medical evacuation.
f) Mandate establishment and testing of National Aviation Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans.
g) Foster effective lines of communication between the Public Health Sector and the Civil Aviation Sector including airlines to mitigate and prevent the spread of Ebola Virus Disease and other communicable diseases into the East African Region.
h) Comply with Airport Preparedness Guidelines and strengthen infrastructure to prevent possible outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease and other communicable diseases.
i) Develop and test contingency plans on business continuity management for airports, airlines and other related businesses at the airport.
j) Strengthen surveillance and management of on-board cases of suspected Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and other communicable diseases through the provision of training and awareness campaigns for all airport stakeholders, including the provision of adequate sanitary facilities and First Aid kits.
k) Enforce the use of Public Health Passenger Locator Form (PLF) for contacts tracing of potentially exposed travellers.
l) Urge airlines to carry Surveillance Forms on-board to make it easier for all arriving passengers to fill-in.
m) Urge the EAC Secretariat and CASSOA to develop a Monitoring and Evaluation Tool to follow-up on the implementation of the above Recommendations and make a detailed Report on the progress to the EAC Council of Ministers through the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health and Ministers Responsible for Transport before 30th November, 2014.



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Friday, August 15, 2014

Africa Nations may be able to develop Malaria Drugs and Vaccines

By Esther Nakkazi

The first-ever controlled malaria infection trial, administered with malaria parasites by injection rather than mosquito bites, which could extend Africa nations ability to develop malaria drugs and vaccines to save millions of lives has happened in Tanzania.

The study was only possible because scientists led by Stephen L. Hoffman, chief executive and scientific officer of the US company Sanaria Inc., a for profit company, in Rockville, Maryland developed technology that allowed sporozoites to be harvested from mosquitoes salivary glands- an infectious stage of malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum- and be used in a syringe to infect volunteers with malaria safely.

Salim Abdullah the Principal Investigator of the study and also the Chief Executive Director of Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) where the study was carried out in Tanzania, told this reporter that the study is significant as it opens a new area of assessment of malaria drugs and vaccines for Africa.

“We can now carry out experimental infection, which is stage one assessment of malaria drugs and vaccines to find out if they are suitable for Africa,” Abdullah told this reporter.

Apparently, before this technology was developed, African research sites could only do stage 2 and 3 assessment of malaria drugs and vaccines. No sites in Africa were able to do stage one assessment, which also ‘challenges’ their effectiveness because of the resources needed and even in Europe and the US where these malaria insectaries exist, they are only a handful.

So for any Stage one assessment of a vaccine effectiveness, in Africa, volunteers were subject to exposure to live infective mosquito bites in a specially constructed insectary. This could allow for introduction of new live species of mosquitoes in new environments, raising public health concerns and inflation of malaria research costs.

This is a promising development, said Ambrose Talisuna, a Senior Clinical Research Fellow for Public Health and Health Systems Research at the University of Oxford-KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme.

"I think the majority of countries in Africa will need better tools than we have available today to eliminate malaria and this development should be commended,” said Talisman.

Hoffman said that this “innovation is a game-changer for malaria research and development in Africa. This is about making available within Africa the same research tools to study malaria that we have in the USA and Europe. The IHI has now established that they can be equal partners with any clinical trial center anywhere in the world to do these first-in-humans, Phase 1 types of trials,” said Hoffman, in a press release.

He said it would also enable mass administration of vaccines in Africa to halt transmission and eliminate malaria from geographically defined areas. In an earlier communication with this reporter (March 2014) by email about a malaria vaccine being tested in Tanzania at IHI. He said he was hopeful that in about three to five years, a safe, reliable whole-parasite vaccine could be a commercial reality, providing benefits to a huge population and saving millions of lives.

In the study, which took place between February and August 2012, the researchers recruited a group of 30 highly educated Tanzanian men, residents of Dar es Salaam, who had minimal exposure to malaria during the previous five years.

The scientists compared the infection rate to that of a similar group of Dutch volunteers who participated in a similar study in the Netherlands in 2011. After about two weeks, all but two of the 23 Tanzanian volunteers injected with live sporozoites developed active infections, a rate similar to the Dutch volunteers. Once active infection was established, volunteers were immediately treated for malaria and cleared of parasites. None of the volunteers developed serious side effects related to the study. Mild side effects included low-grade fever, headaches and fatigue.

Dr. Abudullah said the Tanzanian government was keen on this particular study and supported it financially, because it links directly to socio-economic development. “Once we manufacture our drugs we can do phase one assessment here,” he said. His team was also impressed with the willingness of the volunteers to participate in the study.

Hoffman said their goal is to have drugs and a vaccine that can be used to immunize entire populations, halt transmission and eliminate malaria especially in malaria endemic countries, most of them in Africa. ‘This is one step toward achieving that goal and has an enormous impact.’

According to the WHO , there were about 207 million malaria cases and an estimated 627, 000 malaria deaths in 2012 worldwide.

Uganda Launches Portal to Support Citizens’ Right to Information

Press Statement

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) through the Ministry of Information and National Guidance today launched the Ask Your Government (AYG) online platform ( at the Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala. AYG is an initiative of the OPM in partnership with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC). It is aimed at promoting Ugandan citizens’ right to information in support of transparency, accountability and good governance.

Uganda was amongst the first African countries to adopt Right to Information (RTI) legislation with the passing of the Access to Information Act of 2005. The AYG portal allows citizens to directly send requests for information to information officers in Government departments, ministries and agencies. Responses to the information requests are relayed directly to the email address of the person who makes the requests and are also publicly displayed on the portal.

While Uganda currently has an internet reach of 20% of the population, this initiative will work alongside civil society organisations to ensure that digitally under-represented citizens including people living in rural areas and women can make information requests through the platform. Its wider target audience also includes general citizens with targeted efforts geared at journalists, researchers, university lecturers, and students.

The launch was officiated by Hon. Rose Namayanja Nsereko, Minister of Information and National Guidance who highlighted the changes that government has undertaken in improving information availability within government and amongst Ugandan citizens. 
She noted, “The tool avails to Ugandans an opportunity to access public information. We as government can also use the platform when planning by identifying the types of information that citizens most request.” She also added that the platform will increase the public scrutiny that the Ugandan government subjects itself to through the platform will enhance transparency and accountability to citizens.

In his opening remarks, Simon Mayende, Director at the Ministry of Information and National Guidance (MING) in the OPM stressed the commitment of the Ministry towards “ensuring that the public access information held by all public bodies.” He added that“there should be no barriers of this right of citizens.” The launch was attended by mediaas well as information officers from various government offices who will be the key drivers of the success of the platform.Also present were members of civil society organisations and development partners.

Activities at the launch included a round table discussion. Panellists included Moses Watasa, Commissioner with the OPM/MING and representatives of civil society organisations including Gilbert Sendugwa (AFIC), Wairagala Wakabi (CIPESA), Patrick Tumwine (Human Rights Network), Jude Odaro (Uganda Debt Network) and MareikeLe Pelley (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung).

Discussions explored topics such as Ugandan citizens’ rights to information as per the Access to Information Act, 2005 and accountability. It also explored the integral role that Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) play in promoting engagement between government, civil society and ordinary citizens.

Mr. Odaro commended the Government for building an elaborate legal and institutional framework to facilitate access to public information by citizens as a critical aspect of development. “This in the long run will help citizens understand government development priorities and plans while enhancing awareness and ownership of development initiatives.” he said.He also stressed the work that has to go into sensitising government officials for increased commitment towards right to information.

Mr.Wakabi stated that the increased proliferation of ICTs in the country provided immense opportunities for government to operrationalise existing legal frameworks and improve social accountability. Indeed, Mr.Watesa pointed out that the AYG website was an important tool in government’s efforts to improve communication with citizens – an area that government hasn't been doing very well in.

Discussions were followed by the unveiling of the website through a demonstration in which a query on the ministerial policy statement for the Office of the Prime Minister for the year 2014/2015 was requested.

The live demonstration highlighted the simplicity of registering an account and making a direct request to government for swift responses while at the same time creating a library of queries and responses that can be accessed by other visitors to the website who may have similar questions.

A user guide was distributed amongst all those present to help them navigate through the processes of requesting and responding to information queries.

The website launch marks the commitment that government has towards making public information easily accessible to the citizens of Uganda while also providing an effective, cheaper and less time consuming solution to requesting information from the country’s public bodies.
Ask your Government is available on social media:

Facebook page:

Twitter @AskYourGovUg

For further information please contact