For 5 days, participants at the workshop will adapt the IDSR TGs developed by WHO African Regional Office (AFRO) to Rwanda’s context. Adeline Kabeja, Director of the Surveillance Unit has officiated the opening of the workshop on behalf of Dr. Edson Rwagasore, Division Manager Public health surveillance and emergency preparedness and response.
In her remarks, Kabeja highlighted her trust in the skills and knowledge of the technicians gathered in the workshop.
“Participants in this workshop constitute a multi-disciplinary team. They are from the central and district levels. The participant diversity, knowledge, experience, commitment as well as the consultative approach we will use constitutes a positive aspect for the success of this workshop and the work ahead,” she said.
In 1998 the IDSR strategy was adopted by countries in the WHO African Region (AFRO) for implementing comprehensive public health surveillance and response systems at all levels of the health system. The goal of IDSR is to efficiently integrate multiple vertical surveillance and response systems and linking information with public health action. The role of IDSR in enhancing prompt detection and timely response to public health events at all times cannot be overemphasized.
Rwanda adopted the IDSR in 2002, with the development of country specific TGs and accompanying tools. Since inception, two editions have been implemented.
However, in view of changing public health landscape and the lessons learnt from multiple recent outbreaks including the unprecedented Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa and in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the review of the IDSR TGs was thus necessitated.
The guidelines clearly describe what needs to be established at each level of the health system from the national, sub-national and community in order to prepare, promptly detect and timely respond to priority diseases, conditions and public health events and threats that are responsible for preventable illnesses, deaths and disabilities in local communities. The guidelines also recommend thresholds for action for identifying and responding to the threats.
Following Kabeja’s remarks, Dr. Elizabeth Mgamb, WHO Rwanda outgoing Emergency team lead invited participants to leverage on their past experiences to consolidate the most pragmatic guidelines.
“This workshop is timely as it will allow us to contextualize the third edition TG to the situation by using the experience and lessons learned during the implementation of the second IDSR TGs and COVID-19 pandemic to enhance IDSR systems in Rwanda. For IDSR to be implemented successfully in a consistent manner, it requires national standardized guidelines and training modules,” said Dr. Mgamb.
Dr. Lyndah Makayotto, WHO Rwanda incoming Emergency team lead took participants through an overview of the 3rd edition TGs and training modules: “Successful implementation of IDSR will require a well-trained, competent and dedicated workforce. Outbreaks are detected by our frontline health workers at community and facility level and not in our offices in Kigali. As the saying goes, we are as strong as our weakest link,” noted Dr. Makayotto.
Following Dr. Makayotto’s presentation at the launch of the workshop on 6th October 2021, Dr. Alfred Rutagengwa, WHO Rwanda Public Health Officer and Kabeja organized participants into work groups to review technical guidelines and Training Modules (TMs).
By the end the 5-day workshop, Rwanda will have adapted the 3rd edition IDSR TGs and TMs to the health system in Rwanda, set a date for the training of trainers and developed a list of national trainers for implementing IDSR in Rwanda.
The IDSR TGs and TMs in Rwanda will take in consideration: the broader context of health systems strengthening; the better coordination between human and animal surveillance; the improved use of laboratory network capacity in surveillance and response; and better community engagement in public health interventions that require a strong community based surveillance (CBS), and event based surveillance (EBS) strategies.