Victoria Falls Reporter
THE need to scale up regional collaboration to tame emerging invisible security threats dominated engagements during the high-level meeting of uniformed forces from across Southern Africa, which ended here yesterday.
Traditionally, cross-border crimes such as smuggling, terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, stock theft, poaching, and illegal movement of goods have been common and visible threats to regional security.
The emergency of non-communicable diseases and HIV and Aids, together with TB, added to the challenges and lately, drug and substance abuse has become the most vicious invisible enemy to be fought.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 10th edition of the Uniformed Forces Health Services Conference in Victoria Falls hosted by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, keynote speakers concurred on the need to collaborate at the regional level, as the invisible enemy was common.
Commander ZDF General Philip Valerio Sibanda officially opened the event on Monday in a speech read on his behalf, while Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga officially closed the event yesterday.
“Indeed, conferences of this nature are platforms for candid discussion. This dialogue is cardinal in strategically positioning our health services departments to lead the contemporary health matters affecting men and women of our beloved country,” said Comm-Gen Matanga.
“The conference has helped uniformed forces have an appreciation of issues of HIV and Aids, and its relationship to national security. By its very nature security is an essential service. We have learnt that as vanguards of national security, we can promote it through rehabilitative and collaborative approaches towards addressing trauma and addiction,” he said.
Comm-Gen Matanga said the HIV and Aids pandemic is still a huge and essential threat to humanity at large.
He challenged uniformed forces to continuously sharpen their pedigree, and avoid redundancy while helping in solution-making.
“Indeed, all these vast amounts of insights will contribute to our national, regional, and continental efforts towards the global fight against substance abuse and HIV and Aids. I wish to applaud efforts that have been made towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Number 3, which is ending HIV by 2030,” he said.
“Therefore, we look to health practitioners to roll out more and more programmes to combat this menace as we continue to reduce new infections. Therefore, there is a need for us to promote a positive attitude, information sharing, and access to ART for our members, their dependants, and surrounding communities.”
ZDF Chief of Staff support services and logistics Major-General William Dube said substance abuse has many effects among them social and economic challenges hence the need for early intervention in addressing the challenges.
“There is a need for a comprehensive approach to addressing drug and substance abuse, which includes education treatment, and support services. The importance of collaboration between security and civilian organisations is crucial and in addressing the above, the need for a stigma-free environment is important,” he said.
Colonel Dr Patrick Mukui Kimata from Kenya Defence Forces said the continent can only win the war through collaboration. He said now is the time for the continent to intensify the implementation of strategies put in place to fight the scourge of pandemics and invisible security threats.
“Our issue is actually on implementation and the need to put the mechanisms we have in place to use. Whatever we are going through in terms of these challenges is not unique and it requires a common front,” said Col Dr Kimata.
“What I have learnt is that Zimbabwe uniformed forces are united. We need to collaborate and join efforts for us to fight these crimes,” he said.
The conference noted that the youth are lured into drug and substance abuse sometimes by syndicates that initiate them to other crimes such as terrorism and human trafficking where they are promised a good life and other benefits.
Conference participants said the source of drugs and criminal activity is known and needs collaborative effort to break the cycle.
Major Dr Emmanuel Alphonce Anikazi from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces concurred saying the conference had been a platform for uniformed forces to work together in identifying and fighting common crimes.