During their second visit to Zambia, the first being in 2019 (pre-pandemic), the Radiation, Chemical and Environmental (RCE) hazards team delivered the first capacity building mission to Zambia via the Field Epidemiology Training Programme cohorts at the Levy Mwanawasa Medical University (LMMU), which also included participants from Malawi and the Kingdom of Lesotho.  Non FETP attendees included the Zambia National Public Health Institute and The Zambian Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).  

The UKHSA Radiation, Chemical and Environmental (RCE) hazards team as part IHR Strengthening Project in Africa have been working with ZNPHI and other key stakeholders to strengthen the national capacity to improve environmental surveillance, epidemiology and response to chemical incidents in Zambia. Following a scoping mission undertaken in 2019 and subsequent dialogue with ZNPHI, the delivery of a FETP module on environmental epidemiology was recognised as the ideal route to strengthen capacity in country.  It also complimented other UKHSA input into the FETP such as the recent Leadership module delivered in early February by the workforce team.

A class of 24 attended the week-long training, which involved a field visit to Chunga Sanitary Landfill site which is the official disposal site for the Lusaka City Council (LCC). The landfill is located on the northern side of the City of Lusaka, near the boundary with Chisamba (a district in Central Province). Here, a case study is being developed with participants and RCE staff regarding potential health impacts for those residing near this site.

The objectives of the training include developing skills for field environmental epidemiology, the management of a chemical public health emergency and how emergency response, planning and chemical surveillance can help prevent and limit the impact of chemical incidents.  The training also introduced key concepts in toxicology and environmental epidemiology which will all act as grounding for future training to be delivered in Zambia.

Three members of the RCE team, across Chemicals & Poisons and Environmental Epidemiology facilitated this training alongside national representatives from LMMU, the UKHSA team in Zambia, ZNPHI and ZEMA via interactive presentations, and problem-based learning. The feedback received was generally very positive with great interaction throughout from participants.

 “It was a pleasure to teach for the first time on the FETP environmental course for Zambia. The course was enhanced greatly by presentations from local experts and contributions on from the very engaged trainees. We see this as the first step in fully integrating Environmental Epidemiology into the FETP course over the coming years including the development of Zambia specific case studies on landfill and Copperbelt mining”

UKHSA representative, Head of Environmental Epidemiology: Professor Giovanni Leonardi

“Learning from this course has opened my eyes to chemical hazards that should be investigated, I was currently looking into food contaminants with a focus on biological/infectious contaminants, since this training, I will be making sure to also look into levels of chemical contamination in the food”

Lecturer from Levy Mwanawasa Medical University, Lusaka 

By Nick Brooke