FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Diseases (ECTAD), financially supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented a project for the prevention, early detection and surveillance of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the countries of the SADC region during the period April 2008 to September 2010.
In the framework of this project, a lot of training of field personnel on poultry disease recognition and taking samples from poultry was carried out, notably in four selected SADC countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Thousands of samples were collected and processed partly in the respective national Central Veterinary Laboratories, and partly in the BNVL. This laboratory in Gaborone, Botswana, had been identified to have the capacity to provide the SADC region with diagnostic services for HPAI and other selected Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs), such as FMD and CBPP.
In order for BNVL to assume fully this responsibility, FAO ECTAD and BNVL signed a contract in December 2009 for the period January 2010 to January 2011, under which assistance to upgrade the infrastructure and technical capacity would be given. This contract also comprised the purchase of large equipments such as a wall-mounted autoclave with a heavy duty compressor, three laboratory refrigerators, two laboratory -800 C deep freezers, two biosafety cabinets, two ph-Meters, a refrigerated centrifuge and two electronic balances as well as biological reagents for serology and molecular technology such as PCR test. These equipments and materials now put BNVL in a position to deal with tests that previously could not be handled in the virology department and form the basis for an upgrade of this department from Biosecurity level 2 to BSL 3. It is worth mentioning that the collaboration with FAO ECTAD was enhanced by a concurrent Twinning Project, supported by the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) on HPAI between BNVL and the Veterinary Laboratory Agency (VLA) in London.
In order to mark the end of a one-year productive collaboration between FAO ECTAD and BNVL, a ceremony to hand over these eleven pieces of high tech laboratory equipment, worth 150,000 US dollars, was arranged. The ceremony took place in the BNVL conference building in the presence of the USAID Director in Botswana, Mrs Joan LaRosa and two US Embassy delegates, Mrs Victoria O’Connell and Mrs Phatsimo Lobelo. On the side of the Botswana Government, the Director of BNVL, Dr Lethogile Modisa, the Laboratory manager, Dr Chanda Marobela-Raborogwe and the master of ceremonies, Dr Keabetswe Moagabo, attended. The ECTAD Regional Manager, Dr Susanne Munstermann and her PA, Mrs Grace Ssemakula represented FAO.
In a festive spirit, speeches were delivered by the Director, Dr Modisa, the USAID Director, Mrs LaRosa and the ECTAD manager, Dr Munstermann, before the entire group of about 50 participants proceeded to the laboratory to visit the virology department. Here, the wall-mounted autoclave had been very nicely wrapped in red ribbon and the USAID Director was requested to cut the ribbon and to officially hand over the equipment. This act was followed by a visit inside the virology department for a guided tour, during which Dr Hyera explained the use and purpose of all the other equipments. The ceremony was concluded with some refreshments and talks about the desire to continue this very fruitful collaboration between BNVL and ECTAD and the need for more support by USAID.
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