The West African Laboratory Network was introduced in 2009 at the demand of the Health Ministers of Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. It is co-financed by the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement) (3 million euros) and by Fondation Mérieux (1 million euros) as part of the fight against infectious diseases – notably HIV / AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – in developing countries. Fondation Mérieux, the project manager, works in close collaboration with Health Ministers in the three countries. The French Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) participate in the project.
The lack of access to a quality healthcare system, in particular to diagnostics and quality laboratory services, hinder West Africa’s efforts to achieve the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), notably regarding mother and baby health (Muskoka initiative). In order to attain these goals, a laboratory system providing necessary quality services is needed.
RESAOLAB aims to improve the state of the population’s health by supporting the clinical biology laboratory sector and by constituting an inter-country network. It targets three areas: continued staff training, quality management and support to epidemiological surveillance.
Up until now, the project has been a great success and has allowed for the collection of good results in the three countries – a strong value added to the regional approach:
- Harmonised drafting and national validation of a strategic continuous training plan for laboratory professionals
- Co-drafting of 8 continous training modules
- Trainer training: 31 trained trainers
- Training of 1500 laboratory professionals
- Development of a distance learning platform
- Development of 2 online training modules
- Renovation and equipment of 12 decentralised training and quality control centres
- Implementation of supervision during quality control
- Harmonisation of the compulsory notification sheet for disease cases
- Development of a computerised Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), ‘open source’ software named Lab-Book, and user training
- Equipment of 15 laboratories with technology to digitally transfer laboratory data with a view to implement surveillance of communicable diseases
- Strengthening of Laboratory Managament (Vehicles, HR, Organisation)
The project ends in 2012 and at the demand of, notably, Benin, Guinea, Niger and Togo, it is envisaged that the project will be expanded to other countries and the sub-region, with the objective of implementing a permanent and locally institutionalised network covering all ECOWAS countries. The implementation of the RESAOLAB+ has been proposed for this reason. This project should allow for the extension of the current network to 4 new countries, to cover 7 countries in total (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo). The needs analysis of 4 new countries and an inter-country network is the subject of an expert mission conducted by Fondation Mérieux and funded by Channel 1 of the 5% Initiative Global Fund set up by France.
Partners such as the Islamic Development Bank and Monaco’s Office of International Cooperation and Development are interested in this initiative. Fondation Mérieux as well as the French Development Agency have also signed a protocol agreement with these 2 institutions.