13 Red Cross societies meet in Uganda to discuss pandemics, epidemics

The Secretary General of the Uganda Red Cross Society, Robert Kwesiga has emphasized the need to build local capacities towards epidemic preparedness and response.

“According to reports being authored, epidemics are on the rise, more and more are coming and therefore, we can't wish them away but how do we prepare ourselves to face them. Countries must devise means on how they can build capacities at both the country level and national level to face these epidemics and pandemics. We must note what makes our institutions accountable, strong leadership and investing in the right human resources,” Kwesiga said.

He was on Monday speaking during the opening ceremony of a two-day meeting by 13 Red Cross and crescent societies in Kampala to learn from Uganda’s experience in fighting Ebola in the shortest time possible.

The meeting will also help the societies to form a collaborative body that will fight future epidemics and pandemics.

The Uganda Red Cross Society Secretary General noted that building local capacities is key to fighting epidemics but noted this calls for collaboration.

He noted that collaborations will lead to increased community engagement backed by full government support.

"There is a need to build local capacities towards epidemics preparedness and response at both the country level and National. To do this our institutions have to be accountable, we need strong leadership and the right human resource," he said.

“We must have institutions which are accountable and robust accounting systems, procurement supply chain as well as strong leadership and this can help in management of epidemics.”

Dr.Josephine Okwera, URCS director of health and social services at Uganda Red Cross Society cited the Ebola epidemic in which they worked in collaborations with the Ministry of Health and  were able to arrest it in 69 days.

"We deployed 9 ambulances during the Ebola response to support two call and dispatch centers in Mubende and Jinja districts. Overall, we carried out 1,333 ambulance evacuations or transfers within the 7 districts of response,"she said.

“Our volunteers are community-based, they leave in these communities and are always engaged in other health issues when there are no pandemic responses. During outbreaks, our volunteers are put on health insurance and some small funding."

Dr.Daniel Kyabayinze, the director of public health in the ministry of health said if not managed well, epidemics can easily turn into pandemics .

The head of the delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Juba Cluster Papa Tall Moussa, who represented the regional IFRC head said that national societies have the capacity to deal with any pandemic.

"Dealing with these pandemics needs a bottom-up approach. National societies and IFRC Africa have been collaboratively collecting learnings from Ebola and other Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers responses since the West Africa outbreak of 2014-2016, up through the most recent Ebola virus disease outbreak in Uganda in 2022 and Marburg in TZ in 2023," he said.

The two-day meeting will help develop a collective road map for cross border collaboration on epidemic preparedness, Identify technical tools and guidelines to facilitate peer to peer support.

It will also help develop a national society health technical working group to lead on cross border collaboration during epidemics.

The meeting is attended by delegates from Red Cross and Crescent societies from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, DRC, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Madagascar and Comoros.



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