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Africa CDC, WAHO launch West African disease surveillance network

by Haruna Gimba

By Iyemah David

The Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO), on Friday in Abuja, launched the implementation of a regional integrated surveillance and laboratory network (RISLNET) in West Africa.

RISLNET was established by the Africa CDC to integrate all public health laboratories, surveillance, and emergency response assets.

Speaking at the launch, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said that the implementation would bring member states together to assess their health security strengths, public health laboratories, and surveillance, to be better prepared and respond to public health threats.

“To prevent, detect and rapidly respond to emergencies we need strong partnerships to timeously, effectively and efficiently deploy public health assets across Africa.

“Strengthened collaboration among Africa’s laboratory systems is a prerequisite for building a resilient continental health security architecture,” he said.

He said that RISLNET envisions a safer, healthier, integrated and stronger Africa, whereby Member States are capable of effectively responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases and other public health threats.

Dr Mohammed Abdulaziz, Head of Disease Control and Prevention, Africa CDC, said that the overall objective of the implementation was to support the region with activities to strengthen cross-border referral and surveillance and laboratory capacities.

“RISLNET is integrated into the operations of the Africa CDC Regional Collaborating Centres (RCCs), hence, there are five RISLNET networks hosted at the Central Africa, Eastern Africa, Northern Africa, Southern Africa and Western Africa RCCs.

“Africa CDC is already implementing RISLNET in other regions in the continent, and intends to extend its support to ongoing and new RISLNET activities on the continent.

“As such, Africa CDC will partner with WAHO to work with selected implementing partners to implement select objectives of the RISLNET initiative.

“The West Africa RISLNET will focus on diseases most prevalent and endemic in the region to foster specialized expertise in disease control and prevention on particular diseases, becoming hubs to share across the region while similarly receiving expertise from other regional hubs, thus maximising the limited resources available,” he said.

Abdulaziz said that it was also to enhance efficiencies of existing public health assets to effectively prevent, rapidly detect, and resolutely respond to current and emerging public health threats, including potential outbreaks and the spread of infectious diseases.

He said that the implementation allowed member states to exchange experiences and challenges during sessions moderated by experienced facilitators

According to him, before the launch, the workshop identifies and discuss ways to strengthen existing regional laboratory networks and ensure that they are adequately supported by robust national tiered networks.

“Discuss and agreed on a framework for developing and implementing national laboratory policies and strategic plans.

“Advocated for and obtain country buy-in to map the capacity of laboratories at the national level and across networks of laboratories.”

Also speaking at the launch, Dr Abderhamane Sow, Head of laboratory services, WAHO, said that WHO has done extensive work in West Africa, including some RISLNET-related work like surveillance and laboratory establishment/strengthening.

Sow said that aligning grant activities to WAHO’s ongoing activities was vital to prevent duplication of work and to ensure a prudent and efficient use of resources.

The selection of GHSS as an implementing partner to work directly with Africa CDC in the implementation of a grant received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support Africa CDC in implementing its regional framework in the West African region.

It would be recall that in March 2017, Africa CDC and partners established RISLNET.

These surveillance and laboratory networks will be supported by the Africa CDC’s five Regional Collaborating Centers (RCCs) in Egypt, Nigeria, Gabon, Zambia, and Kenya in collaboration with all available public health assets in their regions.

These assets include universities, national public health institutes, public and private laboratories, centres of excellence, non-governmental organisations, and veterinary networks.

Africa CDC RISLNET will serve as the platform to implement Africa CDC’s five-year strategic plan and WAHO will be the secretariat.

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