10 February 2015 - FAO has a long experience in supporting veterinary laboratories. While assisting countries to strengthen their veterinary laboratory capacities under the USAID-funded IDENTIFY project, FAO noted a lack of clear policy framework for Veterinary Laboratories in most of the countries and regions supported. Laboratory policy and legislation can address aspects such as the delegation of official analyses to specific laboratories (public or private), defining the role and mission of national reference laboratories, setting an active national laboratory network, improving the marketing of available laboratory services, the organizational structure of public veterinary laboratories, the development of partnerships and procurement procedures. Adequate veterinary laboratory policy and legislation are key to maintain accessible, efficient and cost effective veterinary laboratory services.
To improve its assistance to countries, FAO initiated in 2013 the development of an approach to strengthen veterinary laboratory policy and presented it in annual meetings of regional animal health laboratory networks, both in Africa and Asia. Interest was expressed by members of the networks. This approach included:
- The definition of veterinary laboratory policy;
- A review of the prevailing national and regional veterinary laboratory policies across continents for the identification of weaknesses and strengths of existing policies, as a basis for the guidelines;
- The drafting of guidelines for countries and regions.
The legal framework was also included in the review and the guidelines, considering that legal instruments can also address gaps and may contain a variety of provisions on mandates, governance, laboratory facilities, and technical requirements to create conditions for sustainable and long-term improvements in provision of veterinary laboratory services. Three possible levels of intervention for policy development were identified:
- for all laboratories in a country or region;
- specific to laboratories conducting official and compulsory analyses;
- and related to governance and management of public laboratories.
Kenya has been chosen as the first country to pilot this novel approach, through a grant obtained at the end of 2014 from the EU-funded Reinforcing Veterinary Governance project. In Kenya, the veterinary laboratory system is mainly addressed in two overarching policies: the Veterinary Policy and the Livestock Policy. This project in Kenya will lead to the preparation of the first draft of the Kenyan Veterinary laboratory policy and will complement with the prevailing policies framing the veterinary laboratories in Kenya, following several steps.
A desktop review consultation to identify gaps and challenges in the existing veterinary laboratory system in Kenya was organised by Director of Veterinary Services with support of FAO and AU-IBAR (Nairobi, 20-21 January 2015) and involved a wide range of stakeholders;
Thereafter, a first mission coordinated by FAO was conducted in Kenya (26-30 January 2015) by a national and international multidisciplinary team of policy, legal, institutional and laboratory experts. The team visited some public and private, national, sub-national and international laboratories. It also met with key policy makers- the Principal Secretary, State Department of Livestock and the Director of Veterinary Services both of whom confirmed the need for a veterinary laboratory policy to complement the Veterinary Policy currently in the pipeline;
A stakeholder consultation meeting was conducted in Naivasha (29-30 January 2015) to map existing laboratories working under the veterinary domain in Kenya, define the national needs in terms of laboratory services, develop a framework for policy and legal interventions in Kenya and define a road map for the project implementation. To better inform on key policy and legal framework issues to be considered, the experts will consolidate a background document on the status of the veterinary laboratory system, existing challenges, opportunities (suggested solutions) as well as legal and policy frameworks in Kenya that touch on veterinary laboratory services. The stakeholders recommended that Kenya should make use of the FAO Laboratory Mapping Tool to monitor the strengths and weaknesses of individual laboratories and functionality of the whole system.
At the end of the stakeholder consultation meeting, Cathryn Wanjohi, head of the Diagnostic Services in the Directorate of the Veterinary Services declared “’This initiative is going to significantly help Kenya set a more efficient and sustainable veterinary laboratory system".
The first draft of the Kenyan Veterinary laboratory policy will then be shared with Kenyan Authorities by the end of 2015.