East African Community ,Arusha ,Tanzania, 11th December, 2020: The training of trainers’ course on COVID-19 preparedness and response at 12 One Stop Border Posts between the EAC Partner States started in October 2020 and will end on Sunday, 13 December 2020 at the Gasenyi border post in Burundi. By then about 230 staff will have been trained and will scale up the measures by teaching further colleagues.
The training was convened by the EAC Secretariat and implemented by AMREF Flying Doctors to ensure that the busy border posts can effectively prevent the spread of COVID 19 and detect and respond to infected passengers.
“We offered the training to facilitate safe cross border movements and at the same time to protect border staff as the Partner States in the EAC region had started to ease measures that were established to prevent and respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic”, says the Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, EAC-DSG. “The training provided an opportunity for the trainees to identify weaknesses for targeted action. It is not limited to the current pandemic but will also contribute to preventing the cross-border spread of other infectious diseases of public health concern.”
Depending on the size of the border posts between 16 and 32 staff members were trained as trainers in 2-day courses. Successful participation was based on the assessment of lecture presentation and skills demonstrations. Trainees who passed both were certified as trainers on COVID-19 preparedness and response with certificates being valid for two years.
What made the training unique was the application of the One Health approach that includes various sectors and professions in disease management. Consequently, participants came from customs, immigration, port health and animal health, bureau of standards, national drug and revenue authorities, security, cargo and baggage, clearing and forwarding, transporting, border intelligence and police as well as from (joint) border management committees and county commissions. With clearing agents and cross-border traders the communities were also included in the training.
“The scope of the training has focused on operations at the OSBP with close contact to travelers and their luggage including traded goods,” explains Anthony Kihara of AMREF Flying Doctors. “The training of trainers” approach allows for upscaling of the measure and takes the high staff turn-over rates at border posts into account.”
Participants in the training familiarised themselves with existing regulations and guidelines, like the Public Health Act, the International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization and Border Post Public Health Emergency Preparedness. Modes of transmission, handling of suspicious clients including isolation, quarantine and basic life support as well as health care communication were taught in practical sessions.
During a tour around the border post trainees identified OSBP areas that do not yet comply with basic preparedness and response requirements and need attention in this regard. While the port health areas were rather well prepared and equipped, including personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, other areas often lacked or did not fully adhere to proper PPE and hygiene measures including social distancing. Surfaces, for example in the luggage compartments, were not regularly cleaned, and hand-washing and sanitisation facilities were often missing.
Some serious gaps were identified at almost all One Stop Border Posts. As they are critical for disease prevention and control, the EAC Secretariat highly recommends that Partner States address them with urgency and take adequate action:
- Establish regular cleaning and disinfection schedules for corridors and bathrooms. Port health should provide input on adequate disinfection concentrations and solutions.
- Provide additional Personal Protective Equipment and ensure adherence to their judicious use;
- Increase the number of personnel that screens temperatures, as this is a bottleneck and a challenge for social distancing;
- Construct isolation and quarantine units for humans at the border points and holding and quarantine areas for animals in suitable places near the OSBPs;
- Install incinerator units to dispose infectious waste at all border points;
- Improve and ensure continuous access to piped water, for example by installing and commissioning boreholes for the OSBPs;
- Add additional cargo verification areas as a mid- or long-term measure to help enhance social distancing;
- Improve general health messaging on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (and other infectious diseases of public health concern) through banners, posters or electronic means.
Stephen Analo, Principal Customs Officer for Capacity Building at the EAC Secretariat, coordinated the training together with AMREF Flying Doctors. He is convinced that “all participating EAC Partner States benefitted from the initiative”.
The training was facilitated by the Germany Government through the “Support to Pandemic Preparedness in the EAC Region” project, in cooperation between the EAC Secretariat and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.