Diseases know no borders, and the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has made this clear. Border regions, especially in Central Africa, are particularly affected by the impact of the pandemic: the closure of borders deprives populations of their livelihoods from cross-border trade. Access to schools, hospitals or markets on the other side of the border is often blocked.
At the same time, the exposure of border areas to the spread of the virus through trade activities is often worsened by the inadequacy of health facilities in marginalized areas and the lack of information on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
This is why the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), as a regional organisation, has developed a regional strategy to fight the pandemic, with a focus on border areas and cross-border cooperation, which was adopted in July 2020. To support this fight in the border regions, the European Union (EU) and Germany, under the banner "Team Europe", have intensified their support for the ECCAS Border Programme.
As part of this initiative, the Ministry of Health of Cameroon (MINSANTE), in collaboration with the ECCAS Border Programme Support Project co-funded by the EU and Germany, implemented by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), has launched an awareness-raising mission to border communities in the Far North, North and Adamaoua regions.
The mission aims to inform and sensitise local authorities and border populations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its long-term negative effects. This mission represents also an opportunity for MINSANTE to assess the public health and epidemic preparedness needs of border health posts. In order to ensure that the detection and screening of cases at the borders runs smoothly, local staff capacities will be strengthened in terms of combating the spread of the pandemic at border posts.
These capacity-building activities will also promote efficient cooperation between health and border security personnel. By making free COVID-19 testing available at border crossings, case detection will be improved and the virus transmission rate will be reduced. This will contribute to a more secure reopening of border areas.