One Health promotes positive changes in Uganda
Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, is a lush, green, mountainous country home to 34.1 million people. The people who live there share the land with mountain gorillas, zebras, rhinos, and other wildlife and domesticated animals.
However, cohabitating with this wide array of animals comes at a cost when deadly diseases can spread from animals to humans or vice versa.
U.S. Mission Uganda sponsored One Health missions to Uganda's Kaabong and Kabale regions, led by staff from U.S. Agency for International Development and Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa.
These missions brought Ugandan health professionals together to work on eradicating the spread of preventable zoonotic diseases, animal diseases such as rabies or psittacosis, which can be transmitted to humans. Field experts shared knowledge and experience with one another to help their communities reduce the outbreak of these diseases in both people and wildlife.
"In (Kaabong) and other areas of Uganda, we see a rise in particularly dangerous diseases that could potentially be pandemics in the future," said U.S. Army Capt. Gilbert Barrett, 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion One Health team leader. "One of the goals of One Health is to eradicate or control these types of diseases as quickly as possible."
Additional areas discussed were nutrition, sanitation, family planning, first aid, environment conservation, and sources of infection.
Those in attendance included animal and human health professionals, students, village health team members, and representatives from the African Field Epidemiology Network, wildlife ranges, and Uganda's People Defense Force.
"The One Health concept helps spread disease awareness and prevention on relevant topics that could erupt within the local communities," said Maj. (Dr.) Godwin Bagashe Bagyenzi, a UPDF zoonotic diseases leader who took part in the Kabale One Health mission in September.
He said the benefits of these meetings stem from face–to–face dissemination of research and best practices, the most effective way of sharing this essential information in the local context.
"(The) One Health concept is (useful) here in Uganda because it pulls all (health) professionals together ... in a joint effort to train and share information about ... issues that are affecting our communities," Godwin said.
Along with the classroom discussions, members also visited community farms, hospitals, and local villages to provide additional training to people living in those areas. This offered the One Health students the opportunity to share what they learned.
"We believe the members who have been trained are going to serve as change agents in their communities," said Herbert Kazoora, an AFENET epidemiologist who took part in the Kaabong One Health mission in August. "They are going to educate the communities where they come from and emphasize disease prevention and control strategies that we have taught them in this course."
At the conclusion of the One Health event in Kaabong, District Chief Administrative Officer Charles Uma expressed his gratitude for the U.S. Mission Uganda's work and emphasized the importance of nations helping one another.
"When Ebola struck in the year 2000, it nearly divided us as a country. It was the (Center for Disease Control) from America who rescued us," he said gratefully. "We can't afford to remain as islands, but must come together as one."
Healthy citizens are the cornerstone of a strong military, and CJTF–HOA is committed to ensuring the lasting health of Uganda, a key partner in the African Union Mission in East Africa.