As the COVID-19 pandemic enters the third year, there is a need for building resilient border health systems to curb the international spread of diseases. The Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 which was conducted in 2018 across 19 technical areas revealed limited capacity and major gaps under the Points of Entry. This poses a great risk of the international spread of diseases between Eswatini and neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique as well as other countries in Southern Africa.
The United States of America Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ), in collaboration with CDC country offices in the Southern African region, has secured funding that will help build core capacities at Points of Entry to Eswatini. The World Health Organization (WHO) will be working with partner organizations including other SADC countries (Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe), CDC, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Government of Eswatini to design impactful initiatives to strengthen border health systems.
The project aims to bring together partners from local, national, and regional levels to collectively agree on approaches for building capacities at points of entry and in border regions to identify and respond to public health events; strengthening regional public health information sharing and coordination; and understanding population mobility and connectivity patterns across the region. With this project, the CDC also hopes to come up with tailored technical assistance strategies to support identified priorities, including relevant components for disease-specific responses. Implementing partners including Public Health Leadership, are expected to support data collection and thereafter conduct analyses to further characterize population mobility and connectivity across the region with special emphasis on mutually identified priority geographic areas.
With the strengthened border health systems and cross-border collaboration facilitated through this initiative, countries, and the region, will be better positioned to mitigate the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outcomes of this project will help to inform guidance and evidenced-based strategies for opening borders and engaging in more robust bi- and multi-national collaboration and information sharing to address public health threats.
“ I would like to thank CDC for bringing this initiative to Eswatini, the Government of Eswatini for prioritizing health security, and all stakeholders joining this initiative. The World Health Organization will continue to support all appropriate initiatives aimed at ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages including during emergencies. Let’s all join hands and allocate resources towards strengthening national health security. Let’s better protect our nation from health emergencies.” Dr. Kevin Makadzange, from WHO reiterated during the project inception meeting.
Through this project, the projection is that support is accorded to strengthen public health surveillance and emergency response capacity as required under the International Health Regulations (IHR). This will be done by gathering information on points of entry (POE) public health preparedness and response capacities that can help to inform IHR core capacities by identifying strengths and areas for improvement. The project is set to run through to September 2022.