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Call to develop one health strategic plan

Prof Gift Matope

Zimbabwe needs to develop a one strategic plan to guide the country on how to tackle rising human, animal and plant health problems, experts say.

The experts at a workshop on Capacitating one health in Eastern and Southern Africa (Cohesa) to advance the implementation of the one health initiative in Zimbabwe, say the plan will help in the implementation of activities to fight current and future public health pandemics.

“Such a plan will guide the implementation of one health activities in the country,” said Prof Gift Matope, a UZ veterinary microbiologist and Cohesa team leader.

“lt will allow us to also develop specific strategies for one health which will guide activities and actions. It will enable us to define the key players in terms of specific responsibilities and implementation.”

Zimbabwe is still to develop a comprehensive one health strategic plan, but has adopted a one health approach to antimicrobial resistance issues.

Global health emergencies such as COVID-19 pandemic, avian influenza, Ebola outbreaks and continued threats of other zoonotic diseases, food safety, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) challenges, as well as ecosystem degradation and climate change have prompted the need for resilient health systems and accelerated global action.

Experts meet for the one health workshop.

One health is seen as the main approach for tackling these pressing and complex challenges facing Zimbabwe and most other African countries.

“As experts here, we have started moving towards the development of the strategic plan. We want an inclusive approach that involves all stakeholders to develop the strategic plan,” said Prof Matope.

Said Bibiana Iraki of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA):”We need to be advocating for the development of the one health strategic plan.
“The plan has to have a time frame and must be validated by all stakeholders.”

Dr Joconiah Chirenda, an international public health specialist said there was goodwill from Government and multilateral development to develop the strategic plan.

“We have some momentum going. We are starting from somewhere and l think by the first quarter of 2024 we can have a draft.
“FAO has already started this process and we need to understand the stage at which they are now.”

Said Dr Tinashe Hodobo, a government veterinary expert: “There is a buy in on one health issues and prospects are good that this (strategic plan) should move on.

“l am hopeful and l think it’s achievable and we just need to ride on the momentum.”

Zimbabwe is involved in the Euros 9,3 million (US$10 million) Cohesa project financed by the European Union which aims to effectively protect health for people, animals, plants and the shared environment.

The project is being implemented with the support of the International Livestock Research Institute, CIRAD – a French agricultural research and cooperation organisation and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.

Members of Cohesa include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda, Malawi and Namibia.

The rapid spread of infectious diseases that emerge at the animal, human and the environment interfaces due to rising population of animals and livestock, rapid urbanisation, closer interaction between livestock and wildlife, forest encroachment, climate change and global trade has pushed the movement towards a one health approach.

The one health strategy is expected to outline interventions to be undertaken by government and other partners to enhance existing structures and pool together additional resources to prevent antimicrobial resistance and other events of public health importance.

This strategy will broadly seek to contribute to the realisation of a national strategy for improving public health, food safety and security and the quality of life of the people.

Herald

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