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To prevent the spread of epidemics, the German government is funding, through KfW Development Bank and the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, a project for the establishment of mobile laboratories in the East African Community (EAC). This project was initiated in September 2017, with the aim to diagnose infections in remote areas.
Dr. Sonoiya, head of the health department at the EAC headquarters, Arusha, Tanzania, reports that the EAC is on high alert due to the current Ebola outbreaks in the DRC. This project actively prepares the region to control and fight epidemic disease outbreaks.
The project intends to install nine mobile laboratories throughout the six EAC partner states, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. In addition, the project is also building the capacity of employees from the national public health laboratories within the EAC region to operate the mobile laboratories. Between October 1st – 27th 2018, two experts from each of the six partner states were trained at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) in Hamburg, Germany, in how to set up and operate the mobile laboratories, how to protect themselves from infection whilst working in the laboratory and how to identify different pathogens using sensitive diagnostic techniques.
“The experience of the departments Virology, Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Infection Diagnostics are combined to enable the establishment of the mobile laboratories, “ explains Professor Jürgen May, head of the department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology.
The training was organised by three BNITM-employees Dr. Florian Gehre, Dr. Muna Affara and Lisa Reigl, who are employed as technical consultants for the project and based in East Africa within the EAC Secretariat, Arusha, Tanzania. Gerd Ruge, a logistics specialist from BNITM, supported the logistical arrangements for the training and the project.
The East African experts, who followed the training at BNITM, will train respectively ten more laboratory employees in their home countries according to the Training-of-Trainers concept next year. After several field exercises, the newly trained laboratory experts shall be sufficiently prepared to deploy and run the mobile laboratories in response to disease outbreaks or for surveillance. It is hoped this laboratory network will support regional efforts to prevent the spread of cross border epidemics.