Networking: MUST participates in One Health University Network Dissemination meeting

Africa One Health University Network (AFROHUN) held a dissemination meeting on 22nd May 2024 at the Lake View Hotel. Representatives from Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Ministry of Health (MOH), Uganda Health Activity (UHA), Mbarara District Local Government (MDLG) and Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH) attended the dissemination. Among the 27 universities in Africa and the two in Uganda that comprise AFROHUN is MUST.

Focusing on sharing findings from the Transition Award Professional Development Programme (TRAPOD), the day’s moderator, Ms. Angella Musewa, the country manager at AFROHUN Uganda welcomed attendees and facilitated the introduction session. She welcomed Dr. Andrew Akashaba the Director of the Mbarara Regional Veterinary Laboratory who gave a brief background of the importance of One Health (OH) to everyone. ‘What affects humans, affects animals, and also affects the environment’ Dr. Akashaba pointed out. He illustrated how rabies, Anthrax, and Rift Valley fever have affected humans and expressed the need to be well-equipped to fight these challenges. He then welcomed Mr. Emmy Turyabagyenyi the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Mbarara District to give opening remarks.

Ms. Angella Musewa welcoming participants
Seated: Ms. Sheila Niinye Twinamatsiko, Dr. Andrew Ocero and, Dr. Sunday Kithula Haggai

The RDC, Mr. Emmy Turyabagyenyi thanked the organisers of this important dissemination meeting and appreciated the concept of One Health. He noted that Uganda needs this approach to solving challenges. He reminded members that the Government of Uganda (GOU) has placed more emphasis on prevention than just cure since its founding. He noted that democracy, social economic transformation, Pan Africanism, and patriotism are important pillars the GOU bases on in leadership and explained that for this AFROHUN meeting, the focus is social economic transformation and patriotism. One Health is about preventing the spread of diseases and it is important to consider some of the things that happen around us, for instance, who oversees slaughterhouses; who is concerned about our abattoirs, and is the meat supplied to the general public well inspected?

Mr. Emmy Turyabagyenyi, the RDC Mbarara District participating in the meeting

The RDC reminded members that the enforcement and implementation of the objectives of this meeting need to be strategically packaged to reach the intended communities.  With the current Parish Model in place, the RDC pointed out that this is where One Health belongs and much effort should be directed. Examining domestic animal-human relationships is a useful way to address issues that the general population faces.

He challenged participants to adopt the bottom up approach to One Health. The RDC stated, ‘This platform is vital, people need to be sensitised about the rise of zoonotic diseases.’ He appreciated the coordination of the stakeholders in attendance unlike in the past where different stakeholders would come with different messages, conveying the same message is important in community transformation efforts. He concluded urging members to identify practical resolutions from the dissemination meeting and reminded them that they have the full support from the Government of Uganda.

Ms. Angella Musewa introduced the TAPROD with a goal of  developing  and strengthening a local One Health workforce with the capacity to prepare, prevent, detect, and respond to zoonotic disease (ZD) threats and outbreaks in the African region. She talked about the  AFROHUN One Health Academy that will be launched in August this year and the different courses it offers including short courses, graduate and post graduate programs. More information can be accessed via;

In Uganda, MUST staff and students were selected for the second cohort of the TAPROD. Ms. Catherine Abaasa a lecturer at MUST, Dr. Racheal Agaba and Dr. Racheal Nagasha held their 3 months fellowship at the Mbarara Regional Veterinary Laboratory.

Ms. Catherine Abaasa, a lecturer in the Department of Medical Laboratory Science and TRAPOD Fellow.

They developed knowledge management products like videos, success stories, blogs, digital presentations, and brochures on zoonotic disease mitigation. The fellows are facilitated with a monthly stipend and a small grant fee. This is the second year the programme has been implemented in Africa, in the first year, seven grants were implemented from 7 countries. These are Cameroon, Kenya, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

Dr. Racheal Agaba presenting her fellowship experience.

An interactive question and discussion session followed, Dr. Gad Ruzaza a MUST staff and one of the champions of One Health appreciated the good work of AFROHUN and asked how to network to utilise the available laboratories at MUST synergistically. Participants agreed to have an umbrella platform for coordinating all human, animal and environmental laboratories. Dr. Sunday Kithula Haggai the focal person National Emergency Operation Centre from MOH proposed the need to have more fellows from different institutions across the country benefit from TRIPAD. Dr. Sebutinde Peter the Mbarara District Health Officer proposed the need to have a matrix to have a think tank but also for implementers to translate the science into action.   Furthermore, the Mbarara National Resource Officer explained said ‘we are in a production unit need to know what each stakeholder has to use. We need to breakdown all walls between professions to ensure that what can make One Health succeed is done.’ The RDC emphasized that in order to effectively carry out the necessary tasks, the efforts of the many stakeholders must be coordinated. Dr. Gad Ruzaza noted that health teachers are an important factor to advance One Health, they enable students to learn the importance of this concept.

Left to right: Dr. Sebutinde Peter and Dr. Andrew Akashaba

Being one of the five regional laboratories in Uganda, the Mbarara Regional Veterinary Laboratory plays a significant role in advancing health. Dr. Akashaba presented the usefulness of the laboratory and appreciated the MDLC that established it in 2016. He explained that the national action plan for health security is to have laboratories in every district. The regional laboratory focuses on improving accuracy of diagnosis to enable right treatment given to animals. The Laboratory has also enabled research to be undertaken to better understand the diseases animals in the region face.

With the plight of farmers losing their animals on an increase, some have learnt to utilise the laboratories to guide their animal treatment plan and prevention of diseases. Some of the current tests done are; brucella tests, parasitology tests and haematology tests. He highlighted the need to operationalise the microbiology section, which helps to analyse the antibiotic sensitivity to support the animals; the need to develop serology section and to accredit the laboratory. Some of the challenges faced are limited staff, inadequate utilities like electricity to run the fridges that keep samples.

Dr. Racheal Nagasha giving her presentation

The MUST TRAPOD Fellow and two interns made wonderful presentations that began with a digital story by TRAPOD fellow Ms. Catherine Abaasa. It is important to note that medical doctors were selected to learn from the veterinary staff and be able to learn the interaction of the human and animal interface. The objectives of the fellowship were;

  • Build the leadership and transdisciplinary skills and competencies of young and early career faculty and graduate students to address zoonotic diseases.
  • Equip students with skills to manage and implement OH concepts in the workplace.
  • Create a network of university multidisciplinary faculty and students that produces innovative and collaborative solutions to reduce the risk and impact of ZD threats and outbreaks using the OH approach.
  • Develop knowledge products on ZD and OH.

The interns heartily appreciated the opportunity offered by AFRUHON, mentorship given by Ms. Abaasa and support given by the Mbarara Regional Veterinary Laboratory staff where the fellowship was held. Among the activities undertaken during the fellowship were; Sample reception, sample analysis and reporting, handling and undertaking investigations, field works and participating in webinars. The key deliverables were videos, internship reports and brochures. The interns learnt lessons in interdisciplinary collaboration, understanding of disease transmission and prevention, research skills and fieldwork. They participated in the 4th AFROHUN international One Health held in Kenya where they grew their global One Health network to address challenges faced in the planet. Though the fellowship was a huge success, some of the challenges they came across were; limited time for all the activities, they propose 4 months to 3 months and inadequate personal protective equipment.

Some of the members who attended the meeting

For the future, the interns look forward to enroll in the AFROHUN One Health Academy and continue to participate in the Student One Health clubs at Mbarara University of Science and Technology One Health Innovation Club. They are committed to utilise their knowledge and skills as they practice medicine, not only seeing a patient from one angle but being aware of other factors from the animal interaction that cause disease. They encouraged stakeholders to sensitise the community at every opportunity to increase awareness about zoonotic diseases, their prevention and cure.

Ms. Catherine then presented about the rift valley fever that was researched about in Kashari County Mbarara District. She expounded on how different communities responded to the rift valley fever and discussed the team’s knowledge translation plan to the different stakeholders. Within the three months, research had been undertaken and a publication by the team is underway.

A discussion session to plan further engagements was conducted. Stakeholders committed to working as a team. Going forward proposed actions included, develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of the stakeholders, feature One Health in all curricula and research, develop a stakeholder analysis matrix, have functional inter-ministerial partnerships, have champions or mentors from the different sectors to ably tackle the needs.

Left to Right: Dr. Andrew Ocero receiving a gift from Dr. Gad Ruzaaza. The gift was one of the books written by Dr. Ruzaaza.

Dr. Andrew Ocero, the One Health lead from Uganda Health Activity (UHA) noted the need of empathy to deal with situations on the animal sector side and this translates to sectors on the human side. He emphasised that the raised challenges need to be addressed and stakeholders supported. Dr. Andrew Ocero also encouraged the trained interns to work with the MRRH Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) to understand the threats within the communities and be ready to serve.

The meeting was closed by the LC V Chairperson represented by Mr. Bishanga Julius (District Councillor) who appreciated the participants for the fruitful deliberations and urged all stakeholders to embrace the one health not only at district level but also for the region at large.

Succeed we must.