Happy One Health Day!

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Mountain gorilla at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Photo by Allison C Hanes.

On this day, 3rd November 2021, we are celebrating One Health Day. This year marks the sixth annual One Health Day, a global campaign that celebrates and brings attention to the need for a One Health approach to address shared health threats at the human-animal-environment interface.

One Health acknowledges the inherent interdependence of human, animal, and ecosystem health and requires a multi-sectoral approach in order to protect both humans and animals from disease.

Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) was established in 2003 by Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Lawrence Zikusoka and Stephen Rubanga, after Dr. Gladys led a team that investigated a scabies skin disease outbreak in the then critically endangered mountain gorillas, which was traced to people living around the park who have inadequate access to basic health and other social services. After conducting Tuberculosis research at the human/wildlife/livestock interface of Bwindi Impenetrable and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, she realised even further, the great need to prevent and control cross species disease transmission through a One Health approach. CTPH developed three integrated programs: Wildlife Health and Habitat Conservation; Community Health and Alternative Livelihoods.

CTPH and UWA Team led by Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and Dr. Margaret Driciru conducting buffalo disease surveys in Queen Elizabeth National Park

At Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, CTPH set up a long-term gorilla health-monitoring program as an early warning system for disease outbreaks between people, gorillas and livestock. CTPH trains Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) rangers to recognize and report clinical signs in gorillas and to collect abnormal and monthly faecal samples from the night nests and trails. Samples from gorillas, livestock and people are tested for the same diseases at the Gorilla Health and Community Conservation Centre field laboratory to help prevent and control cross disease transmission between people, gorillas and livestock.

CTPH  facilitated the formation of Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) who are community volunteers reaching every home in their village, and trained to promote good hygiene and sanitation, infectious disease prevention and control, family planning, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, as well as, the importance of protecting gorillas and conserving their forest habitat.

We also work with another team of community volunteers – Gorilla Guardians, who are Human and Gorilla Conflict Resolution teams (HUGOs) established by Uganda Wildlife Authority to safely herd gorillas back to the park. We train the Gorilla Guardians to monitor the health of gorillas when they forage on community land, a time when they are most likely to pick up diseases from people and their livestock.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CTPH with funding from generous donors has carried out training workshops to prevent COVID-19 amongst community members and from people to mountain gorillas. The pandemic has revealed the importance of One Health and the critical information that the One Health community has been striving to educate and create awareness on.

CTPH and UWA training Human and Gorilla Conflict Resolution teams (HUGOs) of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on mitigation of COVID-19 in their communities and from people to gorillas, and gorilla health monitoring at the Gorilla Health and Community Conservation Centre

Over the past 15 years, CTPH has implemented a One Health model at Queen Elizabeth National Park to prevent and control zoonotic disease transmission between wildlife, livestock and people conducting disease surveys in buffalo and cattle to test them for Tuberculosis (TB), Brucellosis, Rift Valley Fever, Leptospirosis and Peste de Petit Ruminant; and improving service delivery to people and their livestock through training community conservation animal health workers.

CTPH joined the National Disease Taskforce in 2010 that brought anthrax disease outbreaks in hippos under control, preventing unnecessary deaths and sickness among people who ate hippos that had died of anthrax and sick people and cattle that grazed with the hippos. With support from this Ministry of Health taskforce and other partners, CTPH has mitigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gorilla conservation and communities living around Bwindi Impenetrable and Queen Elizabeth National Parks.

In May 2021, CTPH partnered with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and USAID Social Change and Behaviour Activity (SCBA) to find out what communities living in and around national parks thought about COVID-19,  to help develop effective messages to increase vaccination uptake. They held focus group discussions with rangers, fishermen and tour guides. Participants stated that they preferred to receive messages about COVID-19 and vaccination education through home visits and village health talks rather than  radio, TV  and other mass media. Thus, USAID SBCA supported the Government of Uganda MOH to refresh the ‘Kijja Kuggwa’ (‘It will end’) Hope Campaign to support activities that integrate COVID-19 messages into the routine community activities of rangers, fishermen and tour guides. CTPH is very grateful to the Forix Foundation for funding to conduct these co-creation workshops. The findings from this study were presented in a poster at the Africa CDC Inaugural One Health Conference held from 1st to 3rd November 2021. Click here for details of the study.

Group photo of CTPH, USAID SBCA, UWA rangers and local community members after the co-creation activity at Queen Elizabeth National Park. Photo by USAID SBCA

CTPH Founder and CEO, Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka joined the National One Health Platform (NOHP)  to celebrate the 6th annual World  One Health Day 2021. The NOHP is chaired by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) representing the, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and includes Ministry of HealthMinistry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and  Ministry of Water and Environment (MoWE).

On Monday 1st November 2021, the NOHP held a press conference led by the UWA ED – Mr Sam Mwandha, at the Media Centre in Kampala to talk about pertinent One Health issues in Uganda. He was joined by UWA Veterinary Coordinator – Dr. Patrick Atimnedi, UWA Communications Officer – Gessa Simplicious; Betty Mbolanyi from MoWE, Dr. Chrisostom Ayebazibwe from Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO),  Barbra Natifu from USAID SBCA, CTPH founder and CEO – Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and CTPH Co-Founder and ICT Director – Lawrence Zikusoka.

A key highlight at the press conference was the announcement that UWA with support from Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DETRA) has built a state-of-the-art biosafety Level 2 laboratory at Mweya in Queen Elizabeth National Park to diagnose diseases particularly in wildlife, and also in livestock and people. It has been officially opened today as part of the Global One Health Day celebrations.

UWA ED, Sam Mwandha and Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka speaking at the One Health Day Press Conference at the Uganda Media Center held on 1st November 2021

Watch these videos from our Founder and CEO, Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and Co-Founder and Chief Veterinary Technician, Mr Stephen Rubanga – as they convey their One Health Day message and talk about common zoonotic diseases, anthrax and rabies.

On this One Health Day, we invite you to learn more about the One Health Approach https://ctph.org/one-health-program/ and Share with friends and family about the connections between human, animal and environmental health.

You can also donate to our work in conserving mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park through the One Health Approach https://ctph.org/donate/

Happy One Health Day!

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