EDITORIAL: Joint cross-border multi-sectoral cooperation key to addressing global health emergencies

Rwanda is hosting the 7th African Partner Outbreak Response Alliance (APORA) Key Leader Conference, which has attracted delegates from over 24 countries.

Nations that constitute the grouping meet to share best experiences and jointly identify the most common and most urgent requirements as well as opportunities to collaborate in addressing gaps as far as preparedness and response to disease outbreaks are concerned. 

APORA does not only foster cooperation among participating nations but also between military and civilian stakeholders in member states, with view to strengthening global health security.

The framework was created in the aftermath of the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that killed at least 11,000 people, particularly in West Africa.

As observed by Rwanda’s Ministers for Health and Defence at the opening of the 4-four meeting in Kigali yesterday, global cooperation and solidarity constitute a major weapon against Ebola and other similar outbreaks anywhere in the world.

For some time now Rwanda Defence Force has been a major partner in health emergency preparedness in Rwanda, including military personnel joining frontline workers in conducting Ebola simulation exercises to ensure preparedness in case of any outbreak.  

Indeed, since its creation RDF has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure safety and wellbeing of Rwandans and communities elsewhere where they have been deployed as peacekeepers.

From constructing roads and bridges, schools and homes for the vulnerable, to treating different ailments afflicting the poor and joining residents in community cleanup and hygienic exercises, the RDF has been at the heart of the country’s socioeconomic transformation. Therefore, its involvement in efforts to ensure that the country is ready for possible health emergencies is keeping with its ethos and mandate.

In the case of Rwanda there couldn’t be more appropriate time for military-civilian cooperation in public health emergencies considering that next-door DR Congo has been battling an Ebola outbreak for a while now, with over 1000 people having succumbed to the epidemic in the current outbreak.  Therefore, the APORA meeting in Kigali could not have come at a better time.

In addition, as was pointed out at the APORA Key Leader Conference yesterday, it is critical that more countries join this important movement to ensure appropriate response to global healthy emergencies.