he 20th Ordinary Meeting of the East Africa Community (EAC) Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for Health five day’s meeting in Arusha ends tomorrow.
One item on the agenda is consideration of various reports that include implementation and development of a monitoring and evaluation mechanism of previous decisions of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health during COVID-19 pandemic, which were spelt out to ease movement of people and goods.
The meeting will also review the status of the Covid-19 pandemic in the EAC region and updates on implementation of the response plan; as well as reports on the operationalization and implementation of the Multi-national East African Regional Centres of Excellence for Skills and Tertiary Education in Higher Medical and Health Sciences Education Program.
“In addition, the Sectoral Council is also expected to consider reports on the EAC Regional Network of Public Health Reference Laboratories for Communicable Diseases; implementing the EAC/GIZ Support to Pandemic Preparedness in the EAC Region; and Establishment of a Regional Pool of Rapidly Deployable Experts and Human Resource matters,” EAC secretariat said in a press release yesterday.
The EAC unveiled a comprehensive COVID-19 Response Plan to reinforce measures to protect and prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic within the region in April last year, which has been improved with time as new knowledge on the disease has emerged.
The response plan was developed following a directive by the Joint Meeting of Ministers responsible for Health, Trade and EAC Affairs, which directed the EAC Secretariat to complete and submit the EAC Regional COVID-19 Response Plan to the Partner States.
The response sought to ensure access to Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) materials, laboratory supplies and equipment by the EAC Organs and Institutions, and the EAC Partner States.
Another key intervention was to strengthen the region’s capacity for COVID-19 surveillance and reporting at all key border points, and build knowledge on safety measures, existing prevention and control strategies, and relevant regional guidelines.
Mitigation of the fundamental impacts of the pandemic on the vital economic and social sectors of the region, including Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, was another key intervention outlined in the document.
Other proposed measures included: building regional capacity to support Partner States on surveillance, monitoring and coordination of preparedness and response to the pandemic; research and development, and resource mobilization.
Rated as the biggest significant change is the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS) that is currently monitoring movement over 73,000 truck drivers across the East Africa region in a move that has significantly reduced delays at the border crossing points.
Speaking during the World Trade Organisation Aid for Trade stocktaking conference last month, Mr Alban Odhiambo, the TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) senior director for trade environment, said the App–which is available on the Google Play Store- is monitoring at least 90 percent of truck drivers across the East Africa.
TMEA partnered with key agencies, including the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), to develop the App to address serious delays at border posts lasting for up to 2 weeks.
The App was launched in September 2020 by the EAC Secretariat in partnership with TMEA and the European Union, which has been key in the fight against Covid-19, especially among cross border traders.
“Since we launched the App in September 2020, over 72,900 drivers have downloaded it. This represents over 90 percent of cross border trade drivers in the entire EAC,” Mr. Odhiambo said, adding that whereas the current App was built in English, there are ongoing efforts to localise it in languages spoken widely in EAC such as French and Swahili, among others.
The RECDTS is part of TMEA’s $23m Safe Trade Emergency Facility that seeks to support governments in the region to undertake critical measures along the transport and trade routes.
The system enables digital verification of transit documents and travel authorization by law enforcement, customs, and immigration at border crossings and other strategic locations along the transit corridors. It also facilitates intuitive analyses of data and surveillance of mobility related to cross-border movements for better management of the pandemic in relation to cross border mobile population segments.