February 7, 2019 | West Africa
Between December 2018 and January 2019, the Mérieux Foundation and the Center for International Cooperation in Health and Development (CCISD) held restitution workshops on the activities they performed to strengthen the capacities of 47 health districts in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo.
As part of the REDISSE project, funded by the World Bank, the West African Health Organization (WAHO) assigned the Mérieux Foundation and the Center for International Cooperation in Health and Development to establish 47 Epidemiological Surveillance Centers and to:
- bolster the diagnostic testing skills of laboratory managers,
- improve the epidemiological surveillance and response capacity of district laboratories.
The one-year mandate enabled the Mérieux Foundation to carry out the technical assessment of 47 district laboratories and organize training for more than 160 health personnel. The foundation also organized External Quality Assessment and laboratory supervision to ensure the training is put into practice. Maintenance plans have been recommended to each country in order to sustainably strengthen the health centers.
The restitution workshops took stock of the project’s successes and challenges, and provided recommendations to the project stakeholders (national authorities, WAHO, CCISD, the Mérieux Foundation, national REDISSE team) to make the newly implemented Epidemiological Surveillance Centers (ESC) operate sustainably.
The workshops, jointly organized by the foundation and the CCISD, brought together the laboratory managers, ESC surveillance managers, training teams, laboratory directors, epidemiological surveillance directors and the director general of health for each country involved in the project. The REDISSE coordinator from each country, the WAHO, the World Bank, the WHO, the OIE, and the CDC were also invited.
The workshops highlighted the need for continued collaboration between surveillance centers and laboratories, as part of health systems strengthening. The organization of more joint activities will promote better communication between these two domains to ensure the sustainable functioning of the Epidemiological Surveillance Centers.
The mandate of the Mérieux Foundation and CCISD comes to an end for this part of the project, but REDISSE coordination in the countries will take over to keep up the momentum of support for ESCs.
"The 14 days of training had a real impact on my life and career. During this training, I learned the importance of my role in the laboratory. I received training on the main diseases with epidemic potential, such as measles, cholera, shigellosis, meningitis, E. coli, etc. I learned about the importance of biosafety and biosecurity in the laboratory and at home. […] We also discussed equipment, maintenance and data management. Before the training, I was only involved in one of the diseases with epidemic potential: Ebola virus disease.”
“After the training, I returned to work with a whole new mentality. Thanks to my new knowledge […] as a data manager, I first prepared a file on microbiology, which I have now integrated into my reporting. I also created a file to track cases under surveillance at Redemption Hospital. After understanding that data can make a difference, I decided to help the lab create a hematology file. This file now helps physicians track patient outcomes. With the help of my supervisor, Mr. Mohammed A. Bah, who also attended the training, we were able to create a space for sample collection, which was previously done in the main room of the laboratory.”
“This training also helped me to know good and bad laboratory practices. Today, I can tell my colleagues what to do and what not to do. Sometimes I also supervise the sample collectors (the “Riders for Health”) who come to Redemption to pack samples that are sent to other laboratories. This training has not only improved my knowledge at work but also at home. I separate my waste at home and now I know how to manage it."
- Marie Bropleh, Laboratory Data Manager assigned to Redemption Hospital by the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL)