TUESDAY December 17, 2019
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
The East African Community (EAC) partner states should be wary of vaccines tests lest they lead to outbreak of complex diseases like Ebola, a lawmaker has cautioned.
The member of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), Mr Mohamed Habib Mnyaa, said elsewhere some trial vaccination jabs had put lives of citizens in danger.
He regretted that the Ebola Virus Disease had ripped off socio-economic, cultural and political fabrics of some West African countries and the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC).
Mr Mnyaa was contributing to a report of the Eala Committee on General Purposes. The committee had in September this year assessed the preparedness of Rwanda and Uganda in the management of the Ebola epidemic.
Ebola is an infectious and often fatal disease marked by fever and severe internal bleeding, spread through contact with infected body fluids by a filovirus (Ebola virus), whose normal host species is still unknown.
Between 2014 and 2016, East Africa deployed about 500 health workers to West Africa to fight Ebola in the region which saw at least 10,000 out of over 30,000 infected citizens dead during the outbreak.
Over 2,900 people also have reportedly been infected by the persistent disease in the DRC that shares borders with East African countries, and about 2,077 of the patients have been declared dead.
Expansive tracts of rain forests habouring bats and various organisms in the DRC are blamed for the disease being transmitted to people encroaching on the forests.
Another Eala member, Mr Paul Musamali, had blamed the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease on Africans’ eating habits.
“People of DRC hunt bats and monkeys who happen to be our relatives,” quipped Mr Musamali, observing that the creature was sold more than a chicken in eastern Uganda.
“It’s not true, Ebola is a man-made virus,” argued Mr Mnyaa saying residents of Pemba had for ages been eating bats as well but had never been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease.
Mr Mnyaa said he supported a school of thought that the Ebola Virus Disease was a result of human experiments whose initial motive might not be to kill people.
He quoted Dr Randy Short, human rights defender and social commentator, as claiming to have evidence on the US government using grants for luring its African counterparts to accept some dubious research.
“Dr Short said during a live television programme that the US once paid $140 million for some African governments to accept experiments of the virus in their countries,” Mr Mnyaa said.
The Eala Speaker, Mr Martin Ngoga, however, doubted if the fruit eating bats in Pemba were of the same species with the animal eating ones in the DRC.
Mr Mathias Kasamba proposed that the EAC should seek a surveillance mechanism to control and quickly respond to outbreak of zoonotic diseases as a region, saying individual countries could not afford to do it by themselves.
“A department formed within the EAC Secretariat and national coordination teams should mobilise funds and handle various emergencies instead of leaving the task to experts from the west scattered in the region,” he said.
The member of the EAC Council of Ministers, Dr Kirunda Kivejinja, concurred with Mr Kasamba, saying it was time the bloc established a centre for control of such diseases.
Mr Aden Abdikadir, the committee chairman, said when tabling the report in the House that the team was also scheduled to visit Tanzania to assess the level of preparedness in the management of dengue fever.
“In his letter dated September 13, 2019, Dr Faraj Mnyepe, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, communicated to the Clerk of the Assembly about indefinite postponement of the meeting,” he said.
Mr Abdikadir wondered that Tanzania had neither given reasons to justify the postponement nor had it proposed a date for the Eala oversight activity.
The committee recommends the regional House in its report to urge the Council of Minister to develop the EAC policy on the management of communicable diseases in the bloc.
The House should appreciate the WHO, GIZ and other development partners’ technical and financial contribution to the EAC in the management of epidemics in the region.
The committee urged the assembly to establish and strengthen a collaborative engagement with the WHO and the GIZ to enhance its oversight mandate to promote the health sector in the bloc.