HomeOpinionTowards biodefence and strategy: Part 6 . . . the time to act...

Towards biodefence and strategy: Part 6 . . . the time to act is NOW 

Published on

By Mupakamiso Makaya and Tapiwa Bere 

THE threat from the Siamese twins of biowarfare and bioterrorism is real. 

There is, therefore, a need for a strong centralistic approach and a law that gives tasks related to biodefence to be handled at provincial, national, regional, continental and international levels. 

We are still identifying the agencies subordinated to the respective ministries, shareholders and stakeholders to be responsible for biodefence. 

Agencies and departments responsible for food safety are identified as interested parties in biodefence. It is herein proposed that those entities should assess health-related and nutritional risks that might manifest from food, drinking water or animal forage to provide the Government with expert advice in this field. 

The agency or the Government department should indemnify all sectors of the food industry and monitor all varieties of food intended for human or animal consumption, together with genetically modified foods. The statutory role should include all stages of the food chain; from manufacturing through to consumption. 

A research unit or arm should be included in the organogram of the proposed hybrid food safety agency with bio-threat detection capabilities. The research activities to be undertaken should be in the fraternities of animal health, hygiene, food quality and safety, hydrology and medicine. It also needs to assess the risks to humans coming from animal syndromes. 

EMA, which is subordinated to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, is also identified as a game changer and unique participant in biodefence. Its tasks of assessment and prevention of industrial and major natural risks involving hazardous substances should add bioterrorism detection capability in that realm of a set of responsibilities. It is proposed that EMA should monitor the categorisation of industrial sites and put in place measures on environmental protection, as a safety net against bioterrorism acts. 

In the case of a bio incident, it is recommended that EMA be responsible for decontaminating polluted sites in addition to its statutory roles of constantly monitoring the air quality and responsibility for waste management. 

In its mission to assess and prevent accidental and chronic risks to people and the environment originating from industrial activities, hazardous substances and underground work, EMA should aim to purchase and deploy technological gadgetry that precisely measures the concentration of pollutants in the air, soil and water, which measurements will subsequently be used to assess human exposure to hazardous substances; and determination should thus be generated for a comprehensive report of the short- and long-term biological effects of pollutants. 

It’s not about speed but direction; biodefence is the right direction to counteract biological threats. 

In fulfilling the Zimbabwean Government’s tasks in the field of civil protection, the Zimbabwe Civil Protection Act of 1989 was enacted. 

The Act empowers the central Government to initiate hazard reduction measures through relevant sector ministries, with the local administration taking the responsibility for implementing their effectiveness. It is in the view of the above that the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) should be identified as an instrumental arm of Government in biodefence. 

In biodefence, the CPU is supposed to provide equipment and training to supplement other disaster management units and institutions at the national as well as at regional and international levels. 

It is supposed to plan strategies and prepare measures in the field of bio-emergency preparedness; plan and prepare co-operation between States in biological special risk situations; prepare for critical infrastructure protection; impart basic and advanced training and practical exercises in the field of civil protection and disaster response; as well as keep stocks of disaster medicines. 

It is suggested, herein, that the CPU should have a Centre for Civil Protection Research/Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Protection, Prevention, Response and Preparedness, which shall be responsible for the development and evaluation of apposite procedures, trials and technologies in CBRN (Chemical, Biologicalm Radiological and Nuclear materials) preparedness. This should comprise CBRN reconnaissance vehicles, decontamination vehicles and personal CBRN protection paraphernalia (HAZMAT suits). 

This technical equipment is to be provided by the Government to supplement the local stocks of disaster control equipment. 

In addition, the Civil Protection Research Unit (CPRU) under CBRN is proposed to superintend over requirements for research, with emphasis on pragmatic and response-orientated research. 

The CPRU is suggested to develop scientific, technical and logistic doctrines for the establishment of biological task forces, with emphasis on field detection and investigation. 

Along with the proposed CPRU, the CPU is urged to have a Centre for Disaster Medicine on CBRN that will be responsible for the provision of medical support to the population in chemical, radiological and nuclear emergencies in general and biological emergencies in particular. 

There must be a training academy for protection and disaster assistance with CBRN-related themes and various courses on the management of CBRN occurrences, including biological jeopardies and ways of treating them. 

Supplementary duties should include but not be limited to alerting and informing the populace in the event of a biological emergency; intensifying research in the area of biological disaster management; strengthening self-help among the populace; and comprehensive conceptual and planning tasks in the field of international co-operation; and involving all national bodies responsible for civil protection. 

It is herein proposed that there be a Joint Information and Situation Centre and the Zimbabwe Emergency Preparedness Information System that should provide innovative co-ordination instruments for refining and facilitating information, communication and resource management between players in biodefence. The joint facility should also be involved in the context of international co-operation. 

In addition, the centre should operate the Satellite-Based Warning System with the help of the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA), established under the Research Act (Chapter 10:20). 

It is proposed that there be a volunteer Agency for Technical Relief subordinated to the Ministry of Home Affairs and tasked with technical humanitarian aid both in Zimbabwe and abroad, with a statutory instrument to that effect .


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest articles

Money, value and values…futility of ‘storing’ value without values 

This is an abridged version of an article that was first published in The...

Unpacking Zim’s monetary policy, ZiG

THE latest Monetary Policy Statement and structured currency that was presented to the nation...

The history we want

THE biggest takeaway from ongoing processes to document and preserve Zimbabwe’s agonising history of...

Monetary Policy Statement and the road to Vision 2030

By Shephard Majengeta THE assumption of duty of the new Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)...

More like this

Money, value and values…futility of ‘storing’ value without values 

This is an abridged version of an article that was first published in The...

Unpacking Zim’s monetary policy, ZiG

THE latest Monetary Policy Statement and structured currency that was presented to the nation...

The history we want

THE biggest takeaway from ongoing processes to document and preserve Zimbabwe’s agonising history of...

Discover more from Celebrating Being Zimbabwean

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading