The Union of the Comoros, Réunion, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles, all islands in the western Indian Ocean and members of the Indian Ocean Commission (COI), see high volumes of economic, social, and familial exchanges.They also share a common space within which infectious diseases circulate, both human- and animal-borne, and are interdependent when it comes to the risk of an epidemic.
Following the chikungunya epidemic that broke out in the region in 2006, the COI made it a priority to develop tools for better assessing, preventing, and juggling risks. One result was the decision to implement the SEGA (Epidemic Surveillance and Alert Management) project by pooling resources between the countries.
Born out of this initiative, the SEGA One Health network was officially recognized by the member states with a charter signed in 2017. This network enables the sharing of epidemiological information provided by the member states’ surveillance departments.
A Project That Has Proven its Worth
“The SEGA project has already completed two phases,” explains Julie Couriaut, head of mission at Agence Française du Développement (AFD)’s Indian Ocean regional division."First, from 2009 to 2013, a regional network for epidemic surveillance and alert management (SEGA) was created, along with a health monitoring unit; then from 2013 to 2017, the network went through a capacity-building period, adding surveillance for communicable diseases, both human and animal (“One Health” concept in accordance with WHO rules).” During this second phase, the health monitoring unit also became a permanent technical department of the COI.
Funded with two successive AFD grants, for a total of €11.6 million, SEGA 1 and 2 set up an alert system and provided for a coordinated health response, even as the region experienced several epidemic episodes (pandemic flu in 2009 throughout the region, sheep and goat plague in 2012 in the Comoros).
The system demonstrated its effectiveness against the epidemic of foot-and-mouth diseases that affected Mauritius and Rodrigues in 2016 and the Comoros in 2019, as well as against the measles in Madagascar in 2018. Quick intervention by the network helped prevent these diseases from spreading through the region and mitigate their social and economic repercussions.
Toward a Permanent Network
Reassured by the operational effectiveness of the system, the COI member states wished to embark upon a fresh phase of consolidation. On February 28, 2019, in Mauritius, the COI held the first meeting of the steering committee for the SEGA 3 project, with representatives of the member states and the SEGA-One Health network in attendance.The event was supported by AFD, which renewed its technical and financial cooperation with €8 million in funding.
This third phase aims to extend the life of the SEGA-One Health network (made up of more than 250 professionals) and enhance the health monitoring unit. In light of their common destiny, SEGA hopes to bring together the member states to form a public health department within the COI. Making the network permanent will improve capacity for monitoring, reducing risk, and responding to epidemic diseases, taking into account the impact of climate change and natural disasters, which have a strong influence over the epidemiological risks facing the Indian Ocean region.
SEGA, a source of well-deserved pride and satisfaction for its stakeholders, is a concrete example of the efficiency of clearly understood regional cooperation, supported by many partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Mauritius Institute of Health.
“Enhancing regional health security concretely contributes to improving living conditions for people in the south-western Indian Ocean and maintaining a positive economic environment, including for tourism,” adds Marc Dubernet, Indian Ocean Regional Director for AFD.“The results thus far reinforce AFD’s role as technical and financial partner at every phase of the project. They also validate AFD’s strategy for the region: based on the reality of a common destiny, it aims to support growth in economic exchanges and consideration for regional public goods, with health as a high priority sector.”
Further reading :
Between French Guiana and Suriname, Healthcare Has No Borders
Working For Health Surveillance in the Pacific
The Indian Ocean: Island-To-Island Circuits to Boost Tourism