FAO in Kenya

Regional Training Workshop to strengthen capacities on Biosafety and Biosecurity in veterinary laboratories in Eastern Africa and Anglophone countries from West Africa

: ‘Cristian from FAO HQ lab unit explaining a concept in Biosafety in the laboratory during a practical session’ Photo credit: Joshua/ FAO

Laboratory biosafety and biosecurity mitigate different risks, but they share a common goal: protecting the personnel and the environment, keeping Valuable Biological Materials (VBM) safely and securely inside the laboratory where they are used and stored. Good laboratory biosafety practices reinforce and strengthen laboratory biosecurity systems. A comprehensive biosafety culture translates into the understanding and routine application of a set of safe practices, procedures, actions and habits that protect the people working with biological materials. Appropriate levels of biosafety may be achieved through carefully designed and implemented work practices, even in modestly-equipped veterinary laboratories.


During the period 13-17 May 2019, FAO within the framework of the USAID funded Emerging Pandemic Threats Phase 2 (EPT-2) Programme brought together Heads of National Veterinary Laboratories and Biosafety Focal Points from Eastern Africa and Anglophone countries from West Africa to a Regional Training Workshop to strengthen capacities on Biosafety and Biosecurity. The workshop took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Evaluate the status of biosecurity and biosafety in the context of the Eastern Africa region and to improve the management of dangerous pathogens, bio risk assessment and waste management implementation in national veterinary laboratories.
  2. Discuss a common approach between countries to tackle the most frequent biosafety and biosecurity (BSS) issues in the region.
  3. Draft, discuss and launch the regional Biosafety and Biosecurity Programme in veterinary laboratories as well as national plans taking into considerations the regional road map as well as each country specificities.

Key highlights from country updates and subsequent discussions included:

  • FAO Laboratory Mapping Tool (LMT) – Biosafety, current scores differ significantly from previous scores for some of the countries.
  • The laboratories have very different capacities with regards to Biosafety and Biosecurity in the four areas assessed: Administration, Engineering, Operational and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Limited expertise in the region to conduct Biorisk Assessments.
  • Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) policies are non-existent in the laboratories.
  • Lack of maintenance and calibration of critical biosafety equipment was common among all the countries.
  • Biosafety manuals are not available for use in the laboratory to implement Biosafety measures.
  • Waste Management is a common problem across all laboratories and running of incinerators is very expensive, and in most instances the incinerators are broken down and repairing them is not sustainable hence the need for modern, eco-friendly, safe and efficient technologies to manage biomedical waste.

Countries agreed on the need to have a Regional Biosafety and Biosecurity program to advance regional collaboration on the common challenges in the region through a number of key actions:

  1. Drafting of a BSS policy for the region and an Occupational Safety and Health Programme for the laboratories to address challenges in BSS.
  2. A Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop on Biorisk Assessment to be considered in the future to strengthen the capacity to conduct assessments in the region.
  3. The regional BSS Programme to explore areas of support for exchange of experiences in Biosafety and Biosecurity between countries through twinning programs.
  4. Development of Biosafety Manuals that can be modified to meet country specific needs.
  5. Inventory of Biosafety Cabinets (BSC) in the national and sub-national laboratories for consideration when determining options for procuring a service provider that can serve the needs of the region with regards to BSC calibration.
  6. Development of an innovative solution for biomedical waste management that is safe, efficient, cost effective, eco-friendly and easy to use.

For more information, contact: [email protected]