East African Community Regional Network of Public Health Reference Laboratories for Communicable Diseases

 

(Re)-Emerging and Epidemic prone infectious diseases pose a significant public health and socio-economic burden in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Recent disease outbreaks, such as the past Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the on-going Ebola outbreaks in DRC, demonstrate the need for preparedness and rapid response to such outbreaks.

The East African Community (EAC), in collaboration with the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), Hamburg, Germany are implementing a German Government funded the “Mobile Labs Project” to support the “EAC Regional Network of Public Health Reference Laboratories for Communicable Diseases”, which aims to establish a sustainable laboratory infrastructure and response network across East Africa.

Through the Mobile Labs Project, a total of nine mobile laboratories will be deployed to the EAC partner states Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Mechanisms for robust diagnostics and surveillance reporting systems will be implemented across the participating countries to enable rapid cross border response to disease epidemics.

With its high expertise in the implementation of Mobile Laboratories, the BNITM is providing technical consultation to support the project. The institute draws on vast technical expertise to identify and support the procurement and set up of the mobile laboratories.

Subsequently, regional capacity to operate the mobile laboratories is built through three structured phases of training, lead by BNITM. In the first phase, two experts from all six partner countries came to BNITM for a specialised training of trainers in the use of the mobile laboratories and the specific diagnostic assays in October 2018. Next, these experts, with the support of the BNITM consultants, will conduct in country trainings, including external proficiency testing. Finally, BNITM with the EAC, will coordinate field exercises across the partner states, to reinforce the training and capture epidemiological data on disease burden.