By Mupakamiso Makaya and Tapiwa Bere

HEALTH is wealth, so goes one adage. Biodefence is the vehicle towards that wealth. Section 29 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe enjoins the State to manage biological incidents, whether naturally occurring, accidental or deliberate, thus making biodefence and strategy a constitutional requirement.

In this world, things don’t just happen in a vacuum; there are forces, reasons and goals behind things that exist.

Herein the exposition on biodefence and strategy are proposed goals; the goals of biodefence and strategy of any nation before, during and after biological incidents are to save lives (human, plant and animal life).

The goals of biodefence and strategy include, but not limited to:

  • enhancing national readiness at all levels, including laboratory readiness
  • protection of our worthy first responders and first receivers such, as clinicians, fire fighters (who naturally have decontamination capabilities) and other public health functionaries
  • risk awareness and early detection, are goals of biodefence and strategy which come as a result of forecasting and risk assessment that these sanction bio incident or public health emergency prevention, detection, reporting, response and recovery in the nick of time
  • upping public health fortification or fortress is an important proposed goal of biodefence and strategy, building a biodefence enterprise and ecosystem that is unsinkable when faced with the worst bio-incidents and threats.

Threats and risks from bio-incidents should be taken seriously, thus rapid response is key to lessen smash-up of bio-incidents of public health emergencies. 

One of the goals of biodefence and strategy is mitigatory, minimisation of the repercussions of biohazards, including intentional biological offensive. 

Identification and mitigation of threats should be made a continuous activity. 

There must be a national response framework that advocates inter-Ministerial simulations that include bio-threats and their potential asperity and probable implications so as to brace for realistic set-ups.

In light of all the clandestine biological weapons proliferation that have been exposed of late, de novo, by special military operation in Ukraine by Russian forces, Russian military forces exposed bio-laboratories that are alleged to be used for nefarious intents. 

In light of that, the goal of biodefence and strategy is to counteract threats emanating from assumed State actors.

The problem that might be encountered by surreptitious biological attacks are numerous; accordingly, the goal of biodefence enterprise is to capacitate emergency medical services with resources and enabling architecture.

Around the time, when we in Dzimbadzemabwe were celebrating our emancipation from the shackles of Rhodesian apartheid  in 1980, WHO announced the eradication of smallpox. However, it’s on record that, after the announcement, some countries still have stockpiles of smallpox strains. Because of this state of affairs, there is uncertainty of our collective global safety, hence the need for biodefence and strategy at every level.

Providing undistorted information during bio-incidents is another goal of biodefence and strategy. During bio-incidents (naturally, accidental or deliberate) misinformation and disinformation campaigns are staged wittingly or unwittingly soiling biodefence efforts. 

In light of this, accurate dissemination of information becomes a goal of biodefence and strategy. During the Munich Security Conference on February 15 2020, WHO health director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured) identified disinformation and misinformation menace when he remarked: “We are not just fighting an epidemic (COVID-19) but we are fighting an infodemic . . .,”  the combination of biothreats or incidents and cyber attacks should never be underestimated.

According to Rose Bernard, Gemma Bowsher and others (2021), in their article titled ‘Disinformation and epidemics 

. . .’ , published in Health Security, Vol. 19, disinformation and misinformation and other fake news are spread on various media platforms, and have potential to divert the course of the outbreak by amplifying mistrusts of official reports and rejection of scientific evidence in the court of public opinion. In consideration of the above risk, communication becomes a goal of biodefence and strategy. 

Counterforce is another goal of biodefence and strategy; as a counterforce option, other countries are known to employ special operations forces to eliminate biological lab sites, including electronic warfare which admittedly has collateral repercussions. 

It is proposed herein that biodefence and strategy of Dzimbabwe employ soft power arsenals which do not have collateral damage. Such approaches include prediction of software’s and diplomatic channels which will constitute a robust counterforce. 

Coming up with robust incident management systems and incidents command systems are also goals of biodefence and strategy. 

Development of medicals counter-measures, including biological products (herbs with medicinal properties), vaccines, drugs and other medicals aimed at neutralising biological agents and toxins, are other goals of biodefence.

Biodefence and strategy seek to improve the capabilities for public health surveillance and reporting activities; it also improves security of laboratory facilities and other healthcare facilities to avert bioterrorism activity as well as other public health emergencies.

Training is a goal of biodefence and strategy, education and training of clinicians, law enforcement, public safety officers, first responders (fire department), civil emergency management entities as well as political leaders is a crucial goal of biodefence and strategy.

Another goal is the establishment of an inclusive conglomerate and response congregation that will work on prevention, preparedness and response to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. The response congregation, it is proposed, shall work with pharmaceutical, alternative therapy outfits, biotechnology experts and other relevant entities of biodefence.

Systematic evaluation of novel diseases and their ever-changing patterns and emerging technologies that can be used for bioterrorism or biowarfare is also a goal of biodefence and strategy. Automated or manual surveys should be conducted to make a list and make a determination on existing technology programmes, if any.

Coming up with a mechanism of post-traumatic disorder therapies is a goal of biodefence and strategy. The Ministry responsible for veterans of the liberation war’s affairs should be engaged for lessons learnt, which is a partial fulfilment of Section 23 of the Constitution that enjoins Zimbabweans to give due respect, honour and recognition to veterans of liberation struggle.

The goal of biodefence and strategy is to regulate dangerous biological agents and toxins. Periodic enforcement of regulatory control mechanisms on certain biological agents and toxins should be prioritised.

Bioterrorism and biowarfare are asymmetrical national security threats, thus every biological agent and toxin should be known, as well as knowledge of how it can affect human, animal and plant life. Available and effectiveness of the pharmacotherapies and immunisation to treat or prevent; how that agent or toxin can be handled; and who possesses them and for what. Regulation also includes registration of those who intend to use the biological agents; whether they harbour lawful purpose to possess or use biological agents and toxins.

Protection against adulteration of food, drugs and cosmetics safety modalities are other goals of biodefence and safety.


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