Representatives of the ministries of health of 15 West African countries are convening with the director general of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), Dr. Xavier Crespin, during the 3rd RESAOLAB (Réseau d’Afrique de l’Ouest des Laboratoires d’Analyses Biomédicales, West African Network of Biomedical Analysis Laboratories) International Steering Committee and 1st regional workshop on laboratory capacity building for the project, WARDS (West African Regional Disease Surveillance). This joint meeting of two major initiatives for healthcare capacity building will cover the national and regional issues related to biomedical laboratories, the development of harmonized laboratory policies and the improvement of surveillance of epidemic-prone diseases.
The RESAOLAB program aims to reinforce the skills of laboratory personnel, quality of analyses, surveillance of infectious diseases, and the creation of laboratory networks at the national and regional level in seven countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
Due to the success of the initiative, RESAOLAB has been asked to coordinate the laboratory component of the WARDS project. Deployed under the auspices of WAHO and following recommendations from the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), WARDS aims to improve disease surveillance and response in the 15 ECOWAS countries.
In response to the Ebola virus disease epidemic, the West African countries have decided to establish a system for epidemiological surveillance that is able to rapidly transmit reliable data to health authorities. This system must rely on laboratory data that is collected even from remote regions.
The meetings will be held November 11-13 at the Grand Hotel in Niamey under the high authority of Mano Aghali, Minister of Public Health of Niger, with representatives from the ministries of health of the 15 ECOWAS member states: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Dr. Xavier Crespin Director General of the WAHO, Dr. Pierre-Marie Metangmo, WAHO’s WARDS coordinator, Philippe Renault, Director of Agence Française de Développement in Niger, Adrien Absolu, from Agence Française de Développement’s Health & Social Protection Division and Anne Poyard Vatrican from the International Cooperation of the Principality of Monaco will be joining Benoît Miribel, Director General of Fondation Mérieux and Dr. Jean-Louis Machuron, RESAOLAB program coordinator.
Foundation stone for the Health Laboratories Division
The foundation stone for the future Health Laboratories Division building will be laid November 11th, in a ceremony officiated by the Minister of Public Health with participants including Dr. Mamane Maty, RESAOLAB program coordinator in Niger. The new building will also include an external quality assessment unit. Construction for a continuous training center for laboratory technicians is planned for the beginning of 2016 in the southeast of Niger, in Zinder. It will decentralize training and reduce travel for the technicians. The center will complement the national healthcare personnel training center in Niamey at the CERMES (Center for Medical and Health Research). It will include a practical training room, classroom and multimedia room. The construction of both buildings is funded by the RESAOLAB program with Fondation Mérieux as the prime contractor.
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), Islamic Development Bank, International Cooperation of the Principality of Monaco, Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Fondation Mérieux. The World Health Organization and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) 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. 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.
It focuses on 5 key objectives, in line with the Millennium Development Goals:
- Improve regional and national governance of laboratory systems,
- Improve laboratory services by setting up a standardized quality system,
- Strengthen initial and continuing training for laboratory staff,
- Establish a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) in the network’s main laboratories and improve infectious disease surveillance through better Health Information Systems (HIS),
- Support national laboratory networks and build a functional regional network to share expertise and resources.
RESAOLAB has already made possible the launch of major initial and continuing training programs, the construction and equipment of training and quality control laboratories, the establishment of epidemiological surveillance tools, and the creation of a dynamic inter‑country network of over 500 laboratories.
Funded by the World Bank and coordinated by WAHO, WARDS aims to improve disease surveillance and response in the 15 ECOWAS member states. More specifically, it seeks to increase the capacity to detect infectious diseases at the peripheral level (in districts and regions) by training healthcare personnel in 60 epidemiological surveillance centers.
In light of RESAOLAB’s achievements, WAHO asked Fondation Mérieux, with other partners, to help implement WARDS. Fondation Mérieux is coordinating the laboratory component and providing its expertise and technical support to improve the skills of laboratory professionals in all of the ECOWAS countries.
The training modules cover chronic disease monitoring, epidemic-prone diseases, microscope use, antibiotic susceptibility testing and bacterial resistance, maintenance of biomedical equipment, quality assurance, biosecurity and waste management, as well as pre- and post-analytic processes. Through this initiative close to 180 laboratory technicians will receive training.
Dr Jean-Louis Machuron
Tel: +33 6 11 45 03 59
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Dr Josette Najjar
Tel: +33 6 60 38 73 20
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Tel: +33 6 13 94 51 14
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