Government says its US$1 billion investment in the aviation sector will increase the volume of traffic and passengers arrival in the country.
Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba says apart from this the investment will also increase a number of travelers transiting through the country’s various international airports.
However, Mr Mushimba says this development will also present a public health challenge to Zambia due to the threat of disease migration from some disease prone countries he did not name.
To this effect, the minister has called for a robust disease surveillance system and aviation emergency plans that would respond to public health events.
He said this in a speech for him by his Permanent Secretary Misheck Lungu at the 7th Meeting of the collaborative Arrangement of the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) Africa Project, in Livingstone, yesterday.
The meeting could not have come at a better time than when Zambia was recently removed off the European ban list after having scored an effective Implementation of the ICAO standards and recommended best practices of 62.06 percent. Mr Mushimba said.
“This means the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Zambia working with other key players in the aviation industry will need to work tirelessly to ensure that the industry continues to be compliant with international standards and recommended best practices to grow the aviation sector,” he said.
He further said statistics showed the African Continent is poised for growth in aviation, particularly in passenger traffic that is estimated at an average growth of 6.4 percent between 2013 and 2023 and an estimated growth of 5 percent between 2023 and 20133.
Mr. Mushimba said this growth required CAPSA member states to strengthen collaborative efforts to manage and control public health events in civil aviation.
He said government was happy the meeting had brought together different sectors in a formalized manner to support Aviation and Public Health Partnership in order to develop and improve generic national public health emergency preparedness plans.
“Government is confident that the meeting will entrench a positive culture in the aviation sector towards preventing the spread of communicable disease through air travel,” he said.
Earlier, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Deputy Regional Director Arthemon Ndikumana said CAPSCA was initiated by his organization after the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic of 2003 which he said exposed the flaws in the aviation system with regard to handling public health systems.
Mr. Ndikumana said it was envisaged that through implementation of the CAPSCA program, the aviation sector would take appropriate measures for preventing and managing the spread of communicable diseases of international public concern.
“ICAO is collaborating with the World Health Organization to ensure that the aviation sector plays a supporting role in minimizing the risk of spreading the diseases internationally and of travelers becoming infected, especially pregnant women,” he said.
Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Director General Gabriel Lesa said the SARS pandemic caught many states by surprise and disrupted travel, commerce and industry with the aviation sector being affected the most.
Mr. Lesa however, commended Zambia Airports Corporation for its efforts in ensuring all designated airports had emergency response plans.
“In addition, the Air Navigation Services Contingency Plan has attempted to incorporate medical provisions as required by Annex 11: The procedures for air navigation services-air traffic management,” he said.
He said this in a speech read for him by CAA Director Corporate Services, Desmond Jere.