EAC sentiments differ on yellow fever border controls

17Apr 2016
Grace Kambaulaya
Guardian On Sunday
EAC sentiments differ on yellow fever border controls

The government has ordered health experts to ensure strict surveillance in border posts including airports, to reinforce preventive measures on yellow fever from spreading in the country.

Related to Yellow fever cards

Ummy Mwalimu, the minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children, issued this precaution in Dar es Salaam on Thursday at the official launch of the Environmental Health Practitioners Council, Phase III.

The minister’s statement comes amid rising yellow fever threat in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and other neighbouring countries.

Mwalimu directed the Environmental Health Council to take stern measures upon health practitioners bribed to stamp travelers’ document lacking verified yellow fever vaccinations.

“There is unconfirmed information that some health practitioners issue travelers’ vaccination cards at border posts or airports as if they had already been vaccinated,” she told the gathering.

“This is against ethics since it is likely to threaten the lives of millions of Tanzanians in case an affected person is allowed into the country undetected,” she pointed out

International health regulations give permission to environmental health practitioners to examine all incoming and outgoing travelers to control the spread of diseases, including yellow fever.

Each traveler is obliged to have received yellow fever immunizations before he or she makes an exit, the minister intoned, cautioning that unless practitioners react abruptly at border posts diseases might spread to many parts of our country.

Officials on border posts should react in a precautionary way by setting up equipment for the purpose on important entry points, she advised.

Meanwhile, Mwalimu ordered local government councils to act quickly against garbage collection firms that fail to perform their duties on time. Councils should penalize garbage companies instead of just cancelling the contract or disbanding them.

“Councils must initiate bylaws to ensure that the city is kept clean. It’s only with a clean environment you are free from epidemics,” she said.

On February 4 this year, the Chairperson of the Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), Abdullah Hussein singled out the yellow fever immunization control process at the Namanga border as a clear impediment to implementation of EAC protocols.

At the moment, a person crossing the border to Kenya is supposed to have a yellow fever immunization card and present it to Immigration and Health officers at border points or risk monetary penalties or forced immunization.

On her part, Nancy Abisai from Kenya shared the EALA fellow member’s concern, that yellow fever cards were a serious issue at border points, as “border crossers are being harassed if they don’t have the cards.”

“This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed promptly. To what extent have we assessed its health repercussions? When last did the World Health Organisation give a directive on yellow fever?” she queried.