First regional rabies meeting of focal persons held in East Africa

3 April 2017

The Panel of Rabies Program Directors of the Americas (REDIPRA) has proven very successful in moving forward rabies control and elimination activities across Latin America. Based on this success, the idea was conceived to develop similar structures for various sub-regions in Africa.

These smaller communities of rabies focal persons, operating under the umbrella of the Pan African Rabies Control Network (PARACON), would collaborate, share and disseminate pertinent rabies information to drive international co-operation towards rabies control and elimination on the African continent. In turn, these communities are envisioned to feed more detailed sub-regional knowledge and information into the larger regional PARACON network.  

In light of this vision, the first regional rabies focal persons meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 7-9 February 2017 and was hosted collaboratively by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC) and the Kenya Zoonotic Disease Unit (Kenya ZDU). As rabies control strategies are developed in East Africa, this meeting was intended to bring together rabies focal persons to discuss how individual country plans can be coordinated within communities, regions and the larger African continent.

The participants represented the ministries of health, agriculture, and one health programs from selected East African countries. During the course of the workshop, 10 country delegates from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania and 25 international partners (many of which had specific interests and expertise in each of the represented countries) gathered to share their knowledge, assess their progress towards rabies control and elimination and improve communications within their own and across neighbouring countries.   

Meeting Objectives:

  • Analyze current status of national canine rabies elimination programs in the sub-region
  • Establish the role of a planning community comprised of rabies country focal persons
  • Determine regional and national targets for canine rabies control
  • Propose strategies and a sub-regional roadmap to achieve the control and elimination of canine rabies throughout the sub-region
  • Share the experiences, lessons and progress with the regional PARACON network
  • Identify regional resources and stakeholders that can be leveraged to support the rabies control efforts and identify gaps that need to be addressed

Throughout the course of the 3 day meeting, a detailed workshop focused on the Stepwise Approach towards Rabies Elimination (SARE) and the Rabies Blueprint with its vital links to the SARE assessment. Country representatives were encouraged to update their country’s SARE assessment scoresheet. This produced a more accurate and detailed assessment of the current situation for each country, which in turn enabled users to accurately monitor progress. Easily achievable priority activities for each country in both the short- and the medium-term were devised by the country focal persons to progress along the SARE scale. Common, core priority activities were highlighted for the group as a whole. Furthermore, the PARACON epidemiological bulletin was introduced to the participating focal persons as a useful tool for data collection, collation, analysis and dissemination, including a community-specific dashboard for the display and analysis of sub-regional data.

Following this, country representatives highlighted specific progress, challenges, current activities and future plans for their rabies control efforts. Presentations from the stakeholders and international organisations who have an interest or who have current projects in each of the countries were also given, bolstered by in-depth discussions around these activities. 

As many of the delegates were unfamiliar with the REDIPRA structure, upon which the concept for the meeting was based, the morning session of the last day was structured to provide a background into this structure as well as an overview and more detailed success stories from the Latin American region. The similarities in challenges and experiences between Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa were clear and the session provided an excellent forum for discussions regarding the experiences from Latin America and their specific approaches to rabies control and elimination. A clear emphasis was placed on the fact that all of the tools required for rabies control and elimination are now available. The delegates agreed that Africa could not only succeed in its goal for canine rabies control and elimination, but that it could also be achieved by the global target of 2030.

Following this, achievable goals were set by developing a clear and concise roadmap and building collaboration between the countries in the community. Finally, the meeting was drawn to a conclusion by discussing and deciding upon the crucial link of this newly founded community with the larger PARACON network, ensuring that no overlap or redundancy was created in the formation of this community. The participants all agreed that this community would form a close-knit working group within the PARACON network to support the initiatives driven by GARC and PARACON. Lastly, the meeting outcomes were discussed and agreed upon; including the decision that Kenya would chair this community for the next two years. The roadmap for the community will be shared with the larger PARACON network at the next Anglophone PARACON meeting scheduled for later this year (2017) in South Africa.

Contributed by: Andre Coetzer, Terence Scott and Louis Nel on behalf of PARACON