16 July 2012, Addis Ababa - The Food and Agriculture Organization in collaboration with the Veterinary Services of Ethiopia, organized a three day workshop for regional laboratories in sub Saharan Africa. The consultations in the meeting were able to map out the status, roles and responsibilities of the regional support laboratories, as well as draw up a road map to better diagnostic service delivery of the animal sector. The meeting was held from 9th to 11th July 2012 at the FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa in Addis Ababa.
Speaking at the meeting FAO Subregional Director for Eastern Africa Dr Castro Camarada, noted that diagnostic laboratories played a critical role in, animal disease surveillance, prevention and control and highlighted FAO’s commitment to strengthening this function. “FAO has been actively supporting three laboratory networks in Sub-Saharan Africa namely, the Western and Central Africa Veterinary Laboratory Network for Avian Influenza and other transboundary animal diseases (RESOLAB), the Eastern Africa Regional Laboratory Network (EARLN) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) laboratory network, with the aim of improving laboratory capacity and management, networking as well as information and experience sharing”.
This meeting was a crucial step in the important process of formalization and then future institutionalization of Regional Support Laboratories in sub-Saharan Africa. Speaking at the conclusion of the meeting, Mr Bouna Diop the East Africa regional manager for FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) stressed on the need to improve on the diagnosis as a starting point. “Diagnosis is a key element in the prevention and control of animal diseases and we know the threats posed by animal diseases in Africa and in particular those that easily move through national boarders. In order to control diseases such as foot and mouth disease or the peste des petits ruminants (PPR), whose effects we have recently witnessed in Africa we need to have good diagnostic capacities in Africa”.
Ms Gwenaelle Dauphin, Coodinator of the laboratory unit of FAO’s Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) that address prevention and early warning across the entire food chain, reiterated the importance of working together in regional networks. “Having the regional labs first of all allows for broad technical discussions among affected regions. They make sure that the national laboratories do not work in isolation thus facilitating broad utilization of work throughout the region. When you work collectively then you are stronger and much more likely to achieve better results. Animal diseases do not need visas to move from country to country so the whole region has to work together and share knowledge and information”, she concluded.
There are currently three regional laboratory networks in Sub-Saharan Africa, with five laboratories working within this framework. Two laboratories, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI) and Botswana National Veterinary Laboratory (BNVL), support Southern Africa. RESOLAB has incorporated Laboratoire National d’Elevage et de Recherches Vétérinaires (LNERV) and National Research Veterinary Institute (NRVI) of Vom to support their activities, while EARLN is working with the National Animal Health Diagnostic & Investigation Center (NAHDIC) in Ethiopia. These laboratories have been identified and selected as regional support laboratories to provide technical assistance to national laboratories within their respective regions.
The meeting was funded by IDENTIFY project that is part of the broader Emerging Pandemic Threats programme. The IDENTIFY project represents an USAID partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and FAO and aims to help develop laboratory networks and strengthen diagnostic capacities in geographic “hot spots” areas for new emergent diseases.