Ministry of Health gears up for development of a multi-hazard health contingency plan |10 October 2023
Government ministries, departments and the civil society are meeting in a one-week Strategic Risk Assessment workshop organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The workshop, using the WHO’s Strategic Tool for Assessing Risks (STAR), was opened by Health Minister Peggy Vidot yesterday at the Savoy Seychelles Resort and Spa. STAR is a comprehensive toolkit for all-hazards health emergency risk assessment.
The tool is recommended by WHO as a risk-based approach for management of both anticipated and actual health emergency hazards.
Launched by WHO in November 2021, STAR offers a comprehensive, easy-to-use toolkit and approach to facilitate national and subnational evidence-based assessments of public health risks for planning and prioritisation of health emergency preparedness and disaster risk management strengthening.
The outcome of risk assessment allows proper planning and prioritisation of efforts to better prevent, mitigate, detect, or prepare to respond to and recover from emergency and disaster.
So the objective of the workshop is to identify, describe and rank risks for a coordinated national health emergency response, to have a ready risks data to inform, update or develop the National Health Emergency Response Operational Plan.
The expectation at the end of the week is to have a high level product in terms of a STAR-filled excel spreadsheet, a produced STAR workshop report, including the list or ranked risks identified, a risk calendar for season risks, a country risk profile and a plan of action detailing key steps towards readiness and preparedness.
Other than the participants, present at the launch ceremony were the Minister for Internal Affairs, Errol Fonseka; Public Health Commissioner, Dr Jude Gedeon; the chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Dr Danny Louange; and the WHO representative for Seychelles, Dr Rex Mpazanje.
The workshop is being facilitated by Dr Fred Kapaya, epidemiologist at the WHO office, Nairobi, Kenya.
In his opening remark, Dr Mpazanje said that risks of large-scale health emergency from natural, human-induced, environmental, and infectious hazards, continue to hang over many countries.
He added that these risks are likely higher in Seychelles owing to the country’s geographical, demographic, and other socio-economic factors.
He noted it was the reason why WHO recommends that countries use a risk-based approach for management of both anticipated and actual health emergency hazards so to avert or minimise their short- and long-term consequences on individuals and communities.
“This exercise should help to identify national core capacity areas to be reinforced, building on those strengthened during the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, One Health, infection prevention and control (IPC), disease surveillance and other such programmes,” said Dr Mpazanje who commended the strong whole-of-society collective approach in addressing health emergency risks in Seychelles.
Delivering her keynote address to open the workshop, Minister Vidot said it was important because it will yield real and practical outcomes and benefits in terms of identifying and quantifying risks that form the basis for planning, preparedness, prevention and response.
“It is also important because it brings together the different actors and partners so that the spirit of one health and inter-sectoral collaborations, we build and strengthen a national and all of society response,” Minister Vidot said.
She noted that while Covid-19 affected and impacted all sectors of the society and disrupted all aspects of people’s lives, the lesson learnt was that the response had to involve everyone from all sectors.
“By being united, and working together as a society, we have come out stronger. Let us therefore not forget that lesson. And as we work together to identify and assess risks, let us strengthen that truly national approach to address them,” Minister Vidot said.
The workshop ends on Friday.
Text & photos by Patrick Joubert