By Jedidah Nguyo
Published May 7, 2015
Disruption of peace in Burundi is worrying health experts in the East African Community (EAC) region.
The experts are concerned that the ever growing socio-political problem in the state that is spewing refugees across its borders into Rwanda, Tanzania and Congo-Kinshasa is likely to exacerbate the inadequacies of the overburdened public healthcare systems in a region the World Health Organization (WHO) says is at the mercy of ravages of diseases such as Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).
Strife, like the one being experienced in Burundi over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s action to seek a third presidential term the opposition say is unconstitutional, usually displaces people and leaves them with limited access to health care though more vulnerable to unhealthy situations.
The free movement of people–both forced and voluntary–across national borders could lead to transmission of diseases, a trend that is made worse by lack of proper cross-border surveillance mechanisms that could contributes to early detection and management of diseases among travellers.
Already, the region suffers from an acute shortage of proper sanitation infrastructure. This is especially visible when travelling by road. That there are no clean toilets along the highways leads to free movement of diseases across the region!
These are just some of the challenges highlighted in East African Health Platform Strategic Plan: 2013-2016, a 28-page report by the regional East African Health Platform (EAHP).
EAHP, an umbrella civil society organization that is “expected to facilitate improved productivity of the regional health sector by attending to policy constraints that infringe on health operations, service delivery, pharmaceutical trading and production within East African Community”, says it is up to the gargantuan task in a region with almost no public heathcare infrastructure.
EAHP’s strategic plan—that is said to have been guided by the treaty for the establishment of the EAC, EAC Regional Health Sector Plan 2012-2016, the Realigned EAC HIV/AIDS Multi Sector Strategic Plan 2012-2014 and the 4th EAC Community Development Strategy 2011-2016—provides an analysis of the EAC health situation.
The plan recognises the input of strategic partnerships and multi-sectoral collaboration with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Faith Based Organisations (FBOs), and Private Sector Organisations (PSOs) in achieving its objectives.
Kenya’s private sector owns almost two-thirds of all health facilities and is the largest employer of health workers. In Tanzania, the private sector provides one-quarter of all health services while in Uganda it provides half of all the services. The private sector also trains a large number of health workers across the region.
The publication says EAHP hopes to meet the current health challenges by focusing on institutional-development for capacity building of EAHP members, partners, and policy makers, and policy-engagement with focus on health policies and legislation.