On March 16, 2023, the Tanzania Ministry of Health declared an outbreak of an unidentified illness in Bukoba district, Kagera region. A group of seven individuals presented with fever, vomiting, bleeding from various body orifices, and kidney failure, sparking suspicion of a contagious disease. Laboratory results from patients and the deceased confirmed the Marburg virus disease (MVD) outbreak on March 21, 2023.
As part of its mandate, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) immediately mobilized life-saving commodities and deployed a rapid response team to support the Government’s response and prevent the further spread of the outbreak to neighbouring countries. The outbreak, which reported a total of nine confirmed cases and six deaths, was successfully contained within the Kagera region.
On June 2, 2023, the Honorable Minister of Health for Tanzania, Ummy Mwalimu, MP, officially declared the end of the Marburg virus disease outbreak. This declaration came after an uninterrupted period of 42 days with no new confirmed cases of the disease. Tanzania successfully controlled the outbreak in an impressive span of 78 days. This accomplishment was made possible due to the exceptional leadership demonstrated by the Government and the effective coordination among health partners, including Africa CDC. Africa CDC looks at the lessons learnt and best practices from the MVD Outbreak:
- Strong Political Leadership: The exceptional leadership demonstrated by H.E President Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, Prime Minister Hon. Kassim Majaliwa, Minister of Health Hon. Ummy Mwalimu, and the entire response team at national and subnational levels were vital in effectively managing the outbreak.
- Building Strong Partnerships: The establishment of strong partnerships at all levels involving various stakeholders greatly contributed to the successful response. Collaboration and coordination among government agencies, international organizations, and community leaders enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of the interventions. Some partners supporting the Ministry of Health included Africa CDC, WHO, MSF, US CDC, UNICEF, AMREF, and Tanzania Red Cross.
- Leveraging Existing Programmes and Structures: Utilizing and building upon existing programs such as the Saving Lives and Livelihoods (SLL) initiative provided quick entry, mobilization and coordination of partners and efficient utilization of resources during the outbreak. By leveraging established frameworks and community networks, the response efforts can be expedited, ensuring a swift and effective response to the outbreak.
- Establishing Regular Meetings and Coordination: Regular national task force and strategic committee meetings, along with daily Emergency Operations Center (EOC), pillar meetings and one weekly national EOC meeting under the coordination of an Incident Manager, facilitated timely decision-making, information sharing, and coordination of response activities.
- Conducting Onsite Supervisory Visits: Regular onsite visits by the Africa CDC response team in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and partners to the field provided crucial support and guidance. This direct involvement enabled prompt identification of challenges, adjustment of interventions as needed, and ensured alignment with the evolving situation.
- Adopting a Multi-Sectoral Approach: Recognizing the interconnectedness of different sectors, such as health, water, agriculture, animals, environment, and forestry, and integrating their efforts into the response strategy yielded positive outcomes. This comprehensive approach addressed the various dimensions of the outbreak and facilitated a more holistic response.
- Motivating the Health Workforce: A motivated and dedicated health workforce significantly achieved better outcomes. Their commitment, resilience, and continuous efforts were vital for the effective management of the outbreak.
- Emphasizing Openness, Transparency, and Accountability: Maintaining a culture of openness, transparency, and accountability during and after the MVD outbreak fostered trust among the population and response partners, facilitating a more collaborative and effective response.
By implementing these best practices, future outbreak responses can be strengthened, and the capacity to effectively manage public health emergencies can be enhanced.
Dorothy Wambeti Njagi, Senior Communication Officer – Policy, Health Diplomacy & Communication: Africa CDC | Tel: +251 940 559 950 | Email: email@example.com
Sheila Mwebaze, Risk Communication and Community Engagement Officer – Policy, Health Diplomacy & Communication; Africa CDC | Tel: +256 785854385 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org