In Burkina Faso, A New Playbook for Responding to the Next Disease Outbreak

Lead Paragraph/Summary

Burkina Faso faces various health outbreaks every year. From meningitis to measles, to dengue, the list of infectious diseases likely to occur is long and disturbing. With the possibility of such outbreaks, the country is improving prevention and response by:

  • Pre-positioning health commodities annually to deal with possible epidemics of meningitis, measles or cholera
  • Supply Equipment and Response Kits to deal with the possibility of an Ebola virus epidemic
  • Conducting simulation exercises to handle any emergency
  • Establishing the Center for Operations and Responses to Health Emergencies (CORUS) to control epidemics and health risks

Despite these efforts, the country lacked the appropriate means to effectively manage and deliver the necessary health commodities to health facilities to respond to disease outbreaks. 


Support from the Global Health Security Agenda

Implemented in collaboration with the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) – a global initiative to advance a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats – the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project set up an emergency supply chain to help Burkina Faso deal with epidemics and pandemics. During health emergencies, a country’s ability to respond to and contain infectious disease outbreaks depends greatly on its ability to mobilize staff and provide and resupply its health systems with essential infection prevention and control commodities, specifically through a One Health approach.

Employed globally by health international organizations, GHSA and GHSC-PSM used the One Health approach in Burkina Faso to strengthen the country’s emergency response. One Health focuses on collaborative, multisectoral and transdisciplinary intervention, working locally, regionally, nationally and globally with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes by recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants and their shared environment.

To this end, GHSC-PSM launched the Emergency Supply Chain National Team (ESC-NT), made up of clinical doctors, epidemiologists, veterinaries, environmentalists, agricultural specialists and pharmacists from seven key ministries:

  • Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of the Environment
  • Green Economy and Climate Change
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Hydro-Agricultural Development
  • Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Development
  • Ministry of Women, National Solidarity and the Family
  • Ministry of National Defense and Veterans Affairs
  • Ministry of Security
  • Ministry of Transport and Urban Mobility

The ESC-NT working group has been holding weekly meetings to help the country prepare to respond effectively to epidemic or pandemic threats. Central to the group’s meetings and plans is maintaining the One Health approach to ensure the proper response to health emergencies.

What is the One Health approach?

One Health recognizes the connection between people’s health and that of the environment including animals. It is a collaborative, multisectoral and transdisciplinary intervention, working at the local, regional, national and global levels to achieve optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants and their shared environment.

Example of an Ebola job aid to help prepare for potential disease outbreaks.
Example of an Ebola job aid to help prepare for potential disease outbreaks.
Body Text

Collaborative Team Leads to Tangible Results 

Between July and September 2019, the ESC-NT organized into different components – governance, finance, planning, procurement and logistics – and conducted more than 25 working sessions bringing together national actors from ministries, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), technical and financial partners involved in the One Health approach. The process began by identifying ten epidemic diseases, including four of the five priority Zoonotic diseases including meningitis, measles, yellow fever, Lassa fever, Ebola, cholera, rabies, dengue, avian influenza and anthrax.

Using this list of diseases, ESC-NT members developed basic management protocols to identify 150 health commodities needed to treat them and recorded the commodities in disease job aids. The ESC-NT then produced a playbook that contains detailed information on health commodity specifications such as weight and volume.

Thanks to the definition of the number of expected epidemic cases, the database makes it possible to estimate the quantities of commodities needed by disease to specify the transport, warehouse and waste management options to be considered during a response. The playbook also makes it possible to estimate the cost of the intervention, identifies possible sources of funding and outlines the conditions for activating the protocols of partners referenced. This is significant progress in providing the necessary support for the supply of health commodities in emergency situations.

Simulation Exercises to Test Preparedness

ESC-NT conducted two simulation exercises on Anthrax and Ebola to test the playbook’s design and strengthen members’ skills. A total of 50 participants including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and USAID took an active part in these simulation exercises, along with NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and a local NGO Terre des Hommes. By using the data recorded in the playbook, participants were able to strengthen the collaboration between the different work streams of the ESC-NT. In response mode, the ESC-NT will support the CORUS and the National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation to rapidly receive and send commodities in the area affected by the outbreak.

GHSC-PSM continues to provide on-going support to the ESC-NT ensuring components of the playbook are developed, updated and implemented tailored to Burkina Faso. Additional simulation exercises are being explored to continue testing the readiness of the emergency response community at a global level.

To ensure implementation and sustainability, the ESC-NT’s planned activities were included in the National Emergency Supply Chain Plan and Disaster Situations plan developed by the Ministry of Health.

“These exercises allowed us to move away from theory to handling diseases outbreaks in a practical way…Today, with the playbook, we are prepared to react to an emergency.”

Dr. Haoua Ouedraogo of CAMEG, Head of the Logistics Section of EN-CAU