The East African Community is getting tremendous support from Germany to implement a mobile Medical Reference Laboratories for Communicable Diseases Project.
The EAC secretariat in 2016 received an initial three-year funding of Euro 10 Million for the project. Negotiations are currently underway for additional funding of Euro 13 Million for the year 2020 and beyond.
The main objective of the EAC Mobile Medical Laboratories Project is tostrengthen capacities in all six EAC Partner States to respond to pathogens of biosafety level 3 and 4 nature and other outbreaks of highly infectious diseases that are prone to cause cross-border epidemics by rapid mobile diagnostic capacities that enable timely interventions through joint collaboration, linkages and cross-border networking among the National Public Health Reference Laboratories (NPHLs) in each of the EAC Countries.
“The participating NPHLs in the Partner States are: Institut National de Santé Publique (INSP), Burundi; National Public Health Laboratory Services, Kenya; National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Rwanda; Public Health Laboratory and National Blood Transfusion Centre, South Sudan; National Health Laboratory Quality Assurance and Training Centre (NHLQATC), Tanzania and Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL), Uganda.” A statement from EAC secretariat reads in part.
In addition, the EAC Mobile Laboratories Project has broad actions that include the training of various health and medical laboratory technical experts on the early detection and diagnosis of highly infectious pathogens and exchange of knowledge among Partner States at regional, national and sub-national levels, including joint disease outbreak investigations and response in cross-border areas.
The state of health in East Africa is wanting.
Factors affecting the health sector in the bloc
- A severe shortage of health workers
- Inability to attract and retain health workers, especially in the public health sector
- Performance management issues
- Unequal distribution of staff and diminishing productivity among the health workforce
- Very high turnover especially due to emigration
A four-week long practical Training of Trainers (ToTs) course involving twelve (12) medical laboratory experts from the EAC Partner States’ National Public Health Reference Laboratories (NPHLs), concluded on Friday, 26th October, 2018 at the Bernard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) Headquarters in Hamburg, Germany.
This is an effort to combat some of the disease outbreaks plaguing the bloc.
The secretariat has also set up a body that deals with disease surveillance in East Africa. Dubbed the East African Integrated Disease Surveillance Network (EAIDSNet) is a regional collaborative initiative of the national ministries of the EAC Partner States responsible for human and animal health in collaboration with the national health research and academic institutions. The project is implemented with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Role of the EAIDSNet
- Enhance and strengthen cross-country and cross-institutional collaboration through regional coordination of activities for the prevention and control of both human and animal (zoonotic) diseases under the “One Health” Initiative;
- Promote exchange and dissemination of appropriate information on Integrated Disease Surveillance and other disease control activities;
- Harmonise integrated disease surveillance systems in the region;
The just concluded training focused on the assembly, operation, use and field deployment of the nine High Technology EAC Mobile Medical Laboratory equipment, reagents and supplies for the early detection and diagnosis of various highly infections biological agents such as the various Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs), namely: Ebola, Marburg, Crimean-Congo Fever, Yellow Fever, among others which are endemic in East and Central Africa.