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It takes more than one discipline to tackle epidemics

Specialists met in Königswinter to prepare for missions with BMZ’s Epidemic Preparedness Team

Workshop participants

45 experts working for German development cooperation, NGOs, universities and research institutions met in Königswinter on 12 -14 December 2016 to discuss how to jointly support countries with weak health systems during health crises. The overall aim: tackling disease outbreaks and preventing epidemics.

At the kick-off workshop “Epidemic Preparedness and Response“ 45 of the experts who form the Epidemic Preparedness Team (known by its German abbreviation SEEG) came together for the first time. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) commissioned Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to form and coordinate such a team of experts so that they could quickly be deployed to countries in need of specialist support. This initiative is based on the lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. It is part of Germany’s efforts to contribute to the international response to infectious disease outbreaks.

A team of more than 60 experts

About 60 experts, most of them GIZ employees, have already registered for the initiative’s pool of experts. Additionally, the cooperation partners Robert Koch-Institute and Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine provide staff for missions. In that way, SEEG can provide many relevant areas of expertise when it comes to dealing with outbreaks and prevent the spread of diseases, including the fields of epidemiology, water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH), logistics, communications, anthropology, waste management, laboratory and diagnostics.

Different disciplines are needed for an effective response..

During the workshop, participants shared their respective experiences in the prevention and management of disease outbreaks and there was consensus that bringing together different disciplines and their specific perspectives was crucial for an effective response. For example medical teams reported difficulties in reaching their main target groups because their focus had been on questions of effective medical treatment rather than on ways to establish good contact with their target communities. This is where SEEG comes in: It’s approach goes beyond the coordination of different types of expertise by bringing them together within one team.

..but each professional group comes with its own language

Although all participants valued a multidisciplinary approach, the discussions also showed that different disciplines come with different languages and that some team building will be needed to establish a good basis for effective collaboration. This is why, in the course of 2017, there will be a series of joint trainings and more opportunities to conceptualize and experience the multidisciplinary SEEG approach.

The exchange between SEEG and NGOs will continue

The Academy for Global Health and Development (AGGE) planned and facilitated this kick-off workshop. Apart from SEEG-members and partners there were participants from World Health Organisation (WHO) and from the non-governmental organisations Malteser International, Johanniter and Arbeitersamariterbund (ASB), who each presented their work and experiences in the field of health emergencies.

The workshop participants agreed that it was helpful and important to learn about each other’s focus of work, mandate and capacities. Exchanges between various NGOs engaged in this field and members of the SEEG team will continue in spring 2017.

Further information

Sandra Voglreiter
December 2016

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