Tanzania has announced more rigorous plans to ensure all travellers entering the country have yellow fever certificates, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has been informed.
Tanzania is the only East African Community partner state that strictly enforces the International Health Regulations requirements on yellow fever in respect to regional and international travellers, even though the other four partner states are members of the World Health Organization.
Addressing the EALA sitting in the Burundian capital Bujumbura, the acting chairman of the Council of Ministers, Mr Musa Sirma, said since all partner states are signatories to the International Health Regulations, there was need for them to become vigilant.
However, some legislators accused Tanzanian of double standard, saying the country only implements the surveillance at the Kilimanjaro Airport, leaving all the other entry points unchecked.
“Does yellow fever threaten Tanzania only through one entry point, the Kilimanjaro Airport?” Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Uganda, asked. Meanwhile, Ms Dora Byamukama, also a Ugandan MP, asked if Tanzania had mechanisms of ensuring the yellow fever certificates people carried were genuine.
Ms Margaret Zziwa, Uganda, said it is not necessary for citizens within East Africa to struggle acquiring Yellow Fever certificates, arguing that there has not been any disease outbreak in the region for many years. She said such impediments to peoples’ travels within the community would affect the spirit of the Customs Union Treaty, agreed upon by all the five member states.
“It is to the detriment of the movement of the people, because it adds cumbersomeness of the peoples’ travels. Some people even have to pay bribes to get the certificates which means it abets corruption,” Ms Zziwa said.
However, Mr Sirma, also the Kenyan Minister in charge of East African Affairs, denied any double standards, insisting that Tanzania would implement the yellow fever checks on all boarder points of Nyerere Airport, Mwanza Airport and some inland cross-border ports of entry such as Namanga.
“The Republic of Tanzania will, through implementation of active surveillance and national vaccination strategies protect travellers entering the country which is considered endemic for yellow fever,” Mr Sirma said.
Mr Surma said in one of their previous meetings, the council of ministers agreed that all countries in the community become strict about yellow fever adherence and surveillance to avoid the disease spread.
Yellow fever is one of the diseases considered a stumbling block to economic and social development in Africa, although there has not been a major outbreak in the EAC for a long time now.
A mosquito-borne disease, yellow fever symptoms include; high fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, and backache. Last year, Northern Uganda districts of Lamwo, Kitgum, Pader and Abim received vaccinations for yellow fever. Most Ugandan travellers undergo vaccination from health centers where they receive certificates for the disease to aid their travels.
Mr Surma informed the House that in South Africa, he was forcibly immunised because he had forgotten his yellow fever certificate, days after he had been immunised from his home county-Kenya.
“Recently we established a health directory and the regionalisation of all health matters will be considered,” Mr Surma said.