The 2013-2016 Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa, the biggest and most complex since the virus was discovered in 1976, hit Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone the hardest. Its rapid spread showed the need to improve health systems in those countries to counteract weaknesses in surveillance, reporting, and response to outbreaks.
The WARDS project, launched in 2014, provided ECOWAS with an epidemiological surveillance mechanism, powerful early detection tools, qualified staff to provide an appropriate response, and communication tools. The project set up, equipped, and got 60 epidemiological surveillance centers up and running in 15 ECOWAS countries.
As a continuation of this project, to prevent new outbreaks and other public health emergencies or provide an appropriate response when they occur, ECOWAS countries and the West African Health Organization (WAHO) founded the REDISSE project, with support from the World Bank, aiming to reinforce surveillance and response systems in ECOWAS countries.
As part of this regional program, the WAHO decided to keep implementing Epidemiological Surveillance Centers (ESC) at the health district level. The Mérieux Foundation and the Centre for International Cooperation in Health and Development (CCISD) were mandated to reinforce health districts’ integrated disease surveillance capacities.
With its long-lasting experience in field epidemiology training, the CCISD works in close collaboration with the Mérieux Foundation to implement ECSs in the countries identified by the WAHO.
The main objective of the Mérieux Foundation’s mandate as part of REDISSE is to strengthen the capacities of health district laboratories in ECOWAS countries, in order to:
- Bolster the laboratory diagnosis and confirmation skills of laboratory managers
- Improve epidemiological surveillance and the response capacity of district laboratories
As part of REDISSE, the Mérieux Foundation’s objectives are to:
- Improve the training of laboratory technicians in the health districts of target countries
- Identify the equipment needed by the laboratories and train the personnel to maintain it
- Set up a quality control mechanism for analyses conducted by these laboratories
- Support the establishment of a network of laboratories to provide quality control through peer review
The REDISSE project has five types of activities:
- Audit and evaluate the laboratories: produce an evaluation chart, visit the laboratories, draft an audit report, and organize a feedback workshop.
- Train laboratory technicians: use the modules developed for the RESAOLABproject and available three languages, train national trainers then organize the training sessions these trainers will offer to laboratory personnel, finally train technicians on laboratory equipment maintenance.
- Training supervision: help laboratories carry out training and send supervision reports to national authorities.
- Set up quality management systems: establish quality control measures and a network of laboratories for quality control.
- Organize a final regional meeting to strengthen the national laboratory network.
Phase 1 (2017-2019): Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo
The first phase of the REDISSE project included five countries: Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo.
In total, the Mérieux Foundation supported 47 laboratories in the five countries.
Phase 2 (2020 – 2022) : Benin, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria
The project’s second phase includes five other countries: Benin, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria.
During this phase, 53 laboratories will be identified with the countries’ Ministries of Health in order to implement
Read Marie Bropleh’s testimony
“The 14 days of training had a real impact on my life and career. During this training, I learned the importance of my role in the laboratory. I received training on the main diseases with epidemic potential, such as measles, cholera, shigellosis, meningitis, E. coli, etc. I learned about the importance of biosafety and biosecurity in the laboratory and at home. […] We also discussed equipment, maintenance and data management. Before the training, I was only involved in one of the diseases with epidemic potential: Ebola virus disease.”
“After the training, I returned to work with a whole new mentality. Thanks to my new knowledge […] as a data manager, I first prepared a file on microbiology, which I have now integrated into my reporting. I also created a file to track cases under surveillance at Redemption Hospital. After understanding that data can make a difference, I decided to help the lab create a hematology file. This file now helps physicians track patient outcomes. With the help of my supervisor, Mr. Mohammed A. Bah, who also attended the training, we were able to create a space for sample collection, which was previously done in the main room of the laboratory.”
“This training also helped me to know good and bad laboratory practices. Today, I can tell my colleagues what to do and what not to do. Sometimes I also supervise the sample collectors (the ‘Riders for Health’) who come to Redemption to pack samples that are sent to other laboratories. This training has not only improved my knowledge at work but also at home. I separate my waste at home and now I know how to manage it.”
Laboratory Data Manager assigned to Redemption Hospital by the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL)
- The World Bank via the West African Health Organisation
- The Health ministries of the participating countries
- Centre for International Cooperation in Health and Development (CCISD)