Since 2017, the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa have jointly established two cross border zones for disease surveillance in Thabo Mofutsanyane, Leribe and Butha Buthe and Thabo Mofutsanyane and Maseru respectively. In an effort to expand and strengthen disease surveillance, the two countries have established a 3rd cross border zone in Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek and Wepener and Zaztron districts. This was achieved during a joint four (4) day meeting from 13 – 16 August 2018 that took place in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The 3rd cross border zone will be useful in coordinating cross-border surveillance for diseases in the districts, as well as conditions and events of public health importance using the One Health Approach. The inaugural meeting of the 3rd cross border zone was attended by a total of 32 participants of varied disciplines from the two countries and these included personnel responsible for surveillance, animal health, immigration, customs, laboratory, clinicians, environmental health, Health Inspectors, port health, police and epidemiologists.
The cross border zones are being established with support from the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health Systems Support (SATBHSS) project. During the 3rd cross border zone meeting, it was observed that communication for outbreaks and other events of public health importance follows the official channel which in some cases delays response and actions at the local level. In addition, the participants noted the limited cross-border disease control and surveillance capacity at designated crossing points. Furthermore, it was observed that although emergency preparedness and response plans were in place, these were disease or condition specific and they have not been regularly tested.
In response to addressing some of these challenges, the participants discussed, developed and/or adopted the instruments and tools that will make the cross border zone operational and these include the Terms of Reference (TORs) and the joint 2018–2019 annual work plan. In addition, the participants also conducted a Table Top simulation exercise.
At the end of the meeting, participants agreed to implement four (4) recommendations. Firstly, to conduct regular quarterly cross-border meetings to address issues of common interest with particular emphasis on disease surveillance and outbreak management, based on the One Health model. It was proposed that the first meeting should take place in November 2018.that the first meeting is proposed for November 2018. Secondly, to establish information sharing platforms that are in line with both countries' data and information sharing policies and procedures. Thirdly, to adopt the TORs that shall govern the functionality of the cross border zone and fourthly to adopt the propose committee membership.