February 21, 2017 | Bamako (Mali)
Work is underway to create a biosecurity network covering the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), designed to deliver an improved response to biological threats, and more efficiently combat epidemics and the emergence of new categories of crises.
Financially backed by the GIZ (German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation), the G5 Sahel project is mainly delivered on the ground by the Mérieux Foundation and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich, as part of the German Partnership Programme for Excellence in Biological and Health Security from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project is setting out to create a network of mobile laboratories in the G5 Sahel countries.
Launched September 20th and 21st, 2016, a workshop was held in which high officials from the Ministries of Health in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad were able to learn from the experience of their German and Malian counterparts in using mobile laboratories.
Teaching experts from the G5 Sahel countries to use the mobile laboratory
Mali has had a mobile laboratory in operation since December 2014. The laboratory works to screen and diagnose Ebola virus disease as well as other dangerous pathogens. Developed by the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich, the laboratory is based at the Charles Mérieux Infectiology Center (CICM) in Bamako, a training and research center founded in 2005 through a public-private partnership between the Mérieux Foundation and the Malian government.
The CICM manages the Malian mobile laboratory and the full program of training and support, with help from its partners and the Mérieux Foundation in particular. Eight Malian scientists were trained in how to use the equipment so that they could manage the laboratory themselves. The mobile laboratory can be transported to remote regions and deployed in the field when epidemics occur.
A pilot scheme in September 2016 was carried out at the CICM in Bamako, as were two training courses sessions running from October 10th to 21st, 2016. In these courses, jointly organized by the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology and the CICM, biology experts from the G5 Sahel countries learned how to make the most effective use of the mobile lab, as well as how to detect and categorize highly pathogenic agents.
Mission: to bolster the overall safety of people in the G5 Sahel
Biologists from each of the five countries then took part in a deployment exercise of the mobile lab in Koulikouro, from November 2nd to 9th. The exercise was intended to test the ability of the Malian experts to transport, set up, and use the mobile lab in the field, simulating the outbreak of an epidemic. The CICM held a seminar focusing on this on November 8th, working closely with the Mérieux Foundation.
In 2017, the aim is to consolidate this network through training and conferences in the G5 Sahel countries. The project’s mission is to reinforce the overall security of people in the G5 Sahel, as well as to be better equipped to combat bioterrorism. The Ebola crisis showed that the G5 Sahel countries are not safe from the threat posed by outbreaks of highly pathogenic diseases with potentially serious consequences for the health and safety of the local communities.
In addition to the GIZ (for its financial support), and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (for its technical expertise), the Mérieux Foundation is delivering this biosafety project as part of the German Partnership Programme for Excellence in Biological and Health Security from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with:
- the Charles Mérieux Infectiology Center of Mali,
- the Ministries of Health of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad,
- the Emergency Operational Center,
- the World Health Organization,
- the West African Health Organisation,
- and the Permanent Secretary of the G5 Sahel.