Representatives from the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa and the West African Health Organisation (OOAS) were among some sixty partners participating in the discussions held under the auspices of Mr. Ousmane Koné, Minister of Public Health and Hygiene of Mali.
Since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, RESAOLAB members have been holding daily updates to monitor its evolution. The role of laboratories is essential in the event of an outbreak since it is impossible to establish an effective prevention strategy and inform the public about precautionary measures until the virus causing the disease has been identified. Coordinating epidemiological surveillance helps to limit the spread to other countries.
In Bamako this week, public health leaders drew from their recent experience to strengthen their collaboration in response to Ebola fever and other public health crises that may arise. The discussions covered, in particular, the steps to be taken to facilitate communication and coordinate epidemiological surveillance and the implementation of prevention measures.
During the meeting, regional workshops were also organized to harmonize quality policies as well as basic education and continuing training of laboratory personnel in West Africa.
This inter-country West African laboratory network was launched in 2009 by Fondation Mérieux in collaboration with the ministers of health of Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. Four new countries joined the network in 2013: Benin, Guinea, Niger and Togo. The program is made possible thanks to the support of Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Fondation Mérieux, International Cooperation of Monaco, Islamic Development Bank, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The World Health Organization, the West African Health Organisation (OOAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) collaborate on the program.
Improving the health of populations is dependent upon the quality of the clinical biology laboratory system and the services it provides. However, diagnostics is the area in healthcare that has received the least multilateral aid and investment by governments.
RESAOLAB is the first regional program to address this public health issue. Developed with West African healthcare experts, it takes into account all of the factors that affect the governance and performance of laboratories and focuses on three essential activities:
basic education and continuing training of laboratory personnel,
quality management of the tests performed by laboratories,
epidemiological surveillance support.
The first phase of RESAOLAB made it possible to run major continuing training programs, equip training and quality assurance laboratories, develop tools to support epidemiological surveillance programs and create a particularly active multi-country network. Today, over 300 public and private laboratories in the three initial countries belong to the network.
*RESAOLAB: Réseau d’Afrique de l’Ouest des Laboratoires d’Analyses Biologiques (West African network of biomedical analysis laboratories)