Brunei’s IHR on right track

James Kon

Brunei Darussalam has made good progress in the implementation of the International Health Regulation (IHR), with 90 per cent of the indicators under the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) scoring three and above (maximum score of five).

An important element that supported this was the establishment of the National Committee for IHR Implementation.

These findings were made by a World Health Organization (WHO) evaluation team which assessed Brunei Darussalam’s IHR Core Capacities in detecting and responding to potential public health emergencies ranging from infectious disease outbreaks to food safety, as well as all other hazards including chemical, radiation and natural disasters.

The JEE was conducted from October 28, 2019 to November 1, 2019.

Following the assessment, the WHO evaluation team recommended Brunei Darussalam to leverage the National Committee for IHR Implementation to build on the momentum of the JEE process, ensuring the committee’s long-term accountability for implementing the recommendations of JEE in line with the National Action Plan for Health Security.

According to the statement issued by the Ministry of Health (MoH), “The JEE is a voluntary process in which a team of external experts appointed by the WHO, together with internal country experts, jointly assess and review a country’s capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to major public health threats. Brunei Darussalam’s participation in the JEE provides an objective evaluation of the country’s national capacity.”

“Feedback from the international team of experts will enable Brunei Darussalam to strengthen its capabilities to manage public health emergencies.

“Public health emergencies that occur in other countries, either regionally or elsewhere, potentially pose immense threats and challenges to Brunei Darussalam, and there is therefore a need to be fully prepared.”

Brunei Darussalam has dealt with a number of public health emergencies such as the Cholera outbreak in 1999, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the Influenza A H1N1 pandemic in 2009, Zika in 2016 and the COVID-19 pandemic at present.

The country has come a long way in ensuring that it is fully prepared to respond to a public health emergency.

As stated by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar at the start of the JEE for Brunei Darussalam on October 28, 2019, the country has made significant improvement.

But it will need to continue enhancing its capacities and preparedness level through a whole-of-nation approach linking all relevant sectors including finance, health, agriculture, environment, emergency responders, security agencies and others in working closely together to protect the health and well-being of the people.

Brunei Darussalam will review the findings and recommendations made by the WHO, to further strengthen current capabilities in dealing with existing and future public health threats.

In the meantime, the progress achieved in the implementation of the International Health Regulation IHR has helped the country tremendously in facing the current pandemic.

The full report can be found on the WHO website at www.who.int/brunei.