Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers of Health have agreed on a course of action to mitigate the outbreak of Listeriosis in the region.
This action includes the harmonisation, procedures of prevention, detection and response across the region.
These will see SADC member states collaborating and strengthening inter-ministerial actions at border posts, inter-sectoral and multi-sectoral coordination, effective communication in public health as well as hazard risk assessments for the outbreak.
“We have called on the [SADC] Secretariat to facilitate experience sharing and information exchange between member states. We have also requested the support of international and regional partners like WHO to support capacity building for member states,” Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday in his capacity as the chair of SADC Ministers of Health.
The Minister gathered with his regional counterparts in Gauteng for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the outbreak of Listeriosis in South Africa and the efforts made by government to contain it. The meeting also looked at preventing a trans-border outbreak of Listeriosis.
The food-borne disease, which was first identified in June 2017 in South Africa, has claimed 180 lives and to date, 940 Listeriosis cases have been reported in the country.
The regional Ministers also agreed to strengthen the control of food industries in terms of compliance to food safety standards, as well as the enforcement of policies that are aligned to international codes as well as public education of the disease.
SADC member countries comprise Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
One Namibian receiving treatment, region on alert
Ministers and the representatives attending the meeting indicated that they have no reported cases of Listeriosis in their countries, except for Namibia.
A representative at the meeting, Dr J Kavencunar, said a 41-year-old Namibian man was diagnosed with the disease on Monday and is being treated in a hospital in the capital Windhoek.
“This was the only case of Listeriosis reported in Namibia since the outbreak… Our surveillance and monitoring systems are in full force,” she said.
Most Ministers indicated that they might have victims of Listeriosis in their country but because of the lack of capacity in diagnosing the symptoms, they might have been missed.
They said they have complied with the recall and ban of the South African processed meat products, as most indicated that they did import from the implicated companies.
Despite the recall, the regional Ministers welcomed South Africa’s transparency and urgency in dealing with the outbreak. They hoped that the agreed measures put in place will help equip the different countries with prevention, detection and responses.