Leishmaniasis is an infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites, and transmitted by the bite of infected sandflies. It ravages young children in particular and often leaves ugly, disfiguring scars on the body. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report recognized leishmaniasis as one of the most neglected tropical diseases in the world, and has urged member states to undertake action to control it. Already the disease has spread across the Jordan River valley, affecting Jordan, the West Bank and Israel and it has recently invaded areas in northern Israel, the Negev desert, and in the furthest reaches of the West Bank. This past decade alone has seen a twenty-fold increase in cases, and new instances have been recorded as far afield as the outskirts of Jerusalem, Jenin and Amman. In the face of this surge, MECIDS has stepped in to aid and coordinate leishmaniasis efforts between Jordan, Palestine and Israel. MECIDS works to foster joint engagement of cross-border and cross-sector governmental and academic research institutions to understand, prevent, detect, manage and control leishmaniasis incidences in the region. Specifically, MECIDS seeks to reduce Leishmaniasis incidences; control the cross-border spread of the disease; and foster collaboration between the public health sectors of Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
MECIDS is in the process of expanding and strengthening a national laboratory-based surveillance network for food-borne diseases. The network covers Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Because of the close proximity of the three populations, and because of increasing levels of food exchange, improving the disease surveillance is critical for preventing the transmission of food-borne diseases across the region. MECIDS’ food-borne disease surveillance project is a three-year effort designed to upgrade the region’s ability to detect and analyze food-borne diseases, and to create a new mechanism for sharing information across borders. Because most food-borne infections cause diarrheal illness, the MECIDS food-borne disease surveillance focuses on such cases. Participants include the Jordanian Ministry of Health in partnership with the Royal Scientific Society; the Palestinian Ministry of Health in partnership with Al Quds University and tIsraeli Ministry of Health in partnership with Tel Aviv University.
As avian influenza (“bird flu”) reached the Mediterranean in 2006 – along with fears that the disease could infect humans – the region’s ability to confront a human influenza pandemic became a global priority. After successfully building an infrastructure to facilitate regional cooperation in managing disease outbreaks, MECIDS took on avian influenza. Recognizing the value in building this infrastructure, the Ministries of Health for Jordan, Palestine and Israel, convened a conference in December 2006 on influenza pandemic preparedness. During the conference, officials worked on coordinating their national disease surveillance and control measures, and agreed on ways to assist each other in the event of an influenza outbreak. The conference was held in Istanbul. From 2006 through 2008, during the crucial period when the avian influenza virus was still new to the region, MECIDS remained active in confronting the disease. Below are the reports for the meetings that MECIDS has conducted regarding avian flu.