JEE to boost Brunei’s health security capacity

Lyna Mohamad

Curtains on the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of International Health Regulations (IHR) Core Capacities were raised with an opening ceremony at The Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong yesterday.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar was the guest of honour.

Members of the National IHR Committee as well as senior officials from government agencies were also present.

The ceremony saw the minister delivering his opening remarks as well as speeches by International Team Lead for the IHR Joint External Evaluation of Brunei Darussalam Peter Rzeszotarski and World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore Dr Karen Nahapetyan.

Rzeszotarski said the purpose of the JEE is to measure the host country’s progress in the implementation of IHR (2005) capacities for global health security as well as to discuss any potential areas for improvement.

“Using a peer-to-peer, fully collaborative process, we will jointly assess Brunei Darussalam’s capacities in 19 technical areas. We have come as a group of colleagues and peers with multi-disciplinary backgrounds to learn from your experience and share our own,” he said.

The event will develop recommended priority actions for each of the 19 technical areas of the JEE tool, where the recommendations are expected to serve as the basis for future efforts in further strengthening the country’s already advanced health security system.

Rzeszotarski said that it is important to understand that the JEE is neither an audit nor an inspection, and neither is it an in-depth review of the technical areas of the JEE for health security.

“Through the results of the JEE, we aim to help highlight the strengths and good practices of Brunei Darussalam’s health security systems, from which many other countries can learn. I acknowledge the important contribution made by the Government of Brunei Darussalam in global and regional health security,” he said.

Dr Karen Nahapetyan, meanwhile, said that Brunei Darussalam enjoyed low risk of natural disasters and health emergencies due to its favourable geography and history. However, the country is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, flooding and landslides.

ABOVE & BELOW: Team Lead for the IHR Joint External Evaluation of Brunei Darussalam Peter Rzeszotarski; and World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore Dr Karen Nahapetyan speak at the event. PHOTOS: LYNA MOHAMAD

The Government of Brunei has made a bold and sustained effort to strengthen preparedness and response to natural disasters and health emergencies as one of national priorities, while strongly emphasising sufficiency in emergency operations and improving the overall health status of its citizens.

Brunei has also partnered with neighbouring nations to develop collaborations for health security in the region.

“I highly respect the Government of Brunei for the strong leadership and continuous improvement and sustained investment in preparing for and responding to outbreaks and emergencies,” Dr Nahapetyan said.

With the world continuing to face health security threats of increasing frequency and complexity, the WHO is currently responding to 195 acute public health events globally, including 55 graded emergencies, as per the WHO Emergency Response Framework.

More than 1,600 signals are picked up in the Western Pacific Region, and about 100 events of public health importance are detected and assessed each year, and WHO responded to almost 55 per cent of those events.

Dr Nahapetyan added, “The national, regional and global contexts are rapidly changing. While we face more complex heath security threats, we have an excellent momentum to advance health security and emergency work.”

He added that health emergencies are now one of the three strategic priorities along with Universal Health Coverage and healthier populations for WHO member states and partners for the next five or more years.

He pointed out that recent events such as the 2015 MERS outbreak in the Republic of Korea show that even countries with strong economies and sophisticated health systems need to be prepared, adding that a health emergency can strike any time.

The IHR (2005) is the legal framework for global health security where all WHO member states are required to develop minimum core capacities to detect, assess, report and respond to acute public health events and emergencies.

JEE is one of the core components of the IHR monitoring and evaluation framework designed to assess IHR-required capacities and it is a multi-sectoral process and is performed as a peer-to-peer collaboration between national and international experts, using a standard tool to review national capacities across 19 technical areas related to health security.

The IHR entered into force in the country on June 15, 2007 and the country is legally obliged to develop certain minimum core capacities as required by the IHR.

The National IHR Committee was established on August 2 last year, chaired by the Minister of Health and with the establishment of the committee, four technical working groups were set up – Prevent, Detect, Respond; and Point of Entry and Other IHR Hazards.

The working groups are chaired by the permanent secretaries at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, MoH, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office.

A multi-sectoral team of international and national experts coordinated by WHO Western Pacific Region will jointly conduct a review of Brunei Darussalam’s IHR core capacities in the 19 technical areas using the JEE tool over the next five days. The International JEE Team will consist of 10 external assessors and two observers.

The process involves in-depth assessments of each indicator through presentations from relevant stakeholder, reviewing documentations compiled as well as visits to relevant sites.

The team will visit the Brunei International Airport, National Laboratory and Food Laboratory, National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) and the National Isolation Centre.

The team will also develop an evaluation report that will summarise the JEE’s findings in the country and provide recommended priority actions for each of the 19 technical areas.