Twenty participants, drawn from several local agencies benefitted from information shared during a Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) conducted at the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), between Monday,
February 29 to March 3.
The SMEE, a Guyana Defence Force and United Stated Southern Command (US-SOUTHCOM) partnership activity, focused on vector-borne infectious diseases, an army statement said.
The participants, including a four-man team from the US National Guard and led by Lieutenant Ethan Reid, spent the last five days discussing in part, the history of vector-borne infectious diseases, the circumstances and conditions that lead to outbreaks and their spread, the identification of symptoms in persons suspected to be infected, initial patient/case management of persons with an unknown illness, and elements of Advanced First Aid.
Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, Ebola and Malaria, were the particular vector borne viral diseases under the microscope, and all participants agreed that the experience was one in which they all learned from each other.
Addressing the activities during the five-day session, Lt Reid noted that all the local participants displayed a high level of knowledge regarding several aspects related to vector-borne diseases. He lauded the demonstration of readiness and procedural correctness of the Ministry of Public health as it relates to responding and treating with citizens affected by vector-borne diseases.
“I was privileged to see the system at work during a chance visit to the Ministry of Public Health. From my observations, the Guyanese system is following guidelines and protocols established by the World Health Organisation.
“That is a good thing. It means that your policy makers understand the environment and how to engineer the necessary responses and implement mechanisms for providing solutions to the population,” he said.
However, the absence of sustained communication between local stakeholder agencies was flagged as an issue that needs immediate corrective action. “While the overall system is procedurally sound, there must be stronger and sustained communication between the stakeholder health and emergency operations agencies, which also includes communities and their leaders.
Communication within agencies must be clear, task-oriented and geared toward efficient outcomes. The same can be said for inter-agency communication and communication between agencies and the communities. Learning of the presence of vector-borne infectious disease in a community, the identification of symptoms, treatment interventions for victims, eliminating proliferation and growth centers of vectors and sustaining individual, community and national response will succeed only to the extent that communication and education strategies are robust and efficiently handled,” he said.
CDC’s Alana Walters said that activities such as the SMEE are a necessary element in Guyana’s efforts to build capacity. ‘These for provide us with the opportunities to learn from our US counterparts and also share with them information on how we approach such issues, in this case, a public health matter.
“Through discussions, we understand our strengths become aware of whether or not there are deficiencies in our processes. This can only redound well in our everyday efforts at finding solutions for our citizens.”
The SMEE is one of several which are usually conducted by the GDF in collaborations with its partners in US-SOUTHCOM. Bilateral Affairs Officer, Captain Christopher Hill said that the US teams are usually drawn from the Florida National Guard and various teams share various areas of expertise.
Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Mark Phillips, indicated that the SMEEs function as capacity building mechanism. He noted that while most are geared toward military –specific issues, some, like this one, lend to the broadening of knowledge of persons from outside of the GDF, and a strengthening of the capacity of the Force’s partner stakeholders in national development.
The agencies which participated in the SMEE included the GDF, the Ministry of Public Health’s Vector control Unit, The Environmental Protection Agency, The Red Cross, and the Civil Defence Commission.
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