From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

 

In order to better prepare for future pandemic, the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC), in conjunction with West African Health Organization (WAHO), has 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, Friday, the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, noted 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.

According to him, “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.

Adetifa noted further 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.

Earlier in his remark, Head of Disease Control and Prevention, Africa (CDC), Dr Mohammed Abdulaziz, explained 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 added that it will 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.

The Africa CDC boss, further explained that the implementation allowed member states to exchange experiences and challenges during sessions moderated by experienced facilitators

He said that the three-day workshop before the launch, identified and discussed ways to strengthen existing regional laboratory networks and ensure that they are adequately supported by robust national tiered networks.

Participants also 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,”.

Head of laboratory services, WAHO, Dr Abderhamane Sow, on his part, explained that WHO has done extensive work in West Africa, including some RISLNET-related work like surveillance and laboratory establishment/strengthening.

According to him, aligning grant activities to WAHO’s ongoing activities was key to prevent duplication of work and to ensure a prudent and efficient use of resources.

The 3-days workshop titled, “Central Africa Regional Integrated Surveillance and Laboratory Network (RISLNET), implementation for the West African Region,” was organised by the African Union/Africa CDC and WAHO.

 

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