Benin hosts key West African players in medical biology for the 7th RESAOLAB International Steering Committee
Members and partners of the West African Network of Biomedical Analysis Laboratories (RESAOLAB) met in Cotonou from the 10 to 12 November 2021 for their International Steering Committee.
This committee allows those involved in the project to share the progress they have made, so that laboratory systems in the seven member countries can continue to be reinforced.
Almost thirty participants, including the main stakeholders and partners involved in RESAOLAB in Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, met to discuss the third phase of the project, which was launched in Niamey, Niger in 2019. This third phase aims to continue the development of medical biology in the seven countries, while improving regional cooperation for a coordinated and harmonised intervention approach between these French-speaking West African countries.
The annual meeting of the network was attended by, amongst others, Richard Gandaho, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Health in Benin, Jérôme Bertrand-Hardy, Director of the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency) in Benin, Dr Al Fattah Onifad, WHO representative in Benin, Dr Géraud Padonou, RESAOLAB representative and coordinator in Benin and Dr François-Xavier Babin, Director of International Operations at the Mérieux Foundation.
This steering committee meeting presented the opportunity to review this year’s activities, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic made possible by an additional grant awarded by the Agence Française de Développement in 2020 as part of the “COVID-19 – Health in Common” initiative. Time was also set aside to evaluate the assessments that had been carried out to measure how well laboratory networks are functioning in each country. The programme also included discussions of planned project activities for 2022, the sharing of the results of activities carried out in certain countries in 2021, the approval of project management methods and schedules and the review of requirements and the intervention strategy for the implementation of certain regional activities. Finally, there was a presentation of the new international coordination unit.
On this occasion, two laboratory technicians who had completed the RESAOLAB Biomedical Maintenance training programme at the École Polytechnique Abomey Calavi, were awarded their diplomas by Dr Ali Imorou Bah Chabi, Secretary General at the Ministry of Health.
Strengthening the governance of laboratory systems in Benin
The project members also attended the opening of the building housing the Diagnostic Exploration Department, the External Quality Assessment Laboratory and the National Centre for Continuous Training in Medical Biology in Cotonou. The construction of this building was made possible as part of phase two of RESAOLAB, which was financed by the Agence Française de Développement, the Department of International Cooperation of Monaco, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Islamic Development Bank. As the main building contractor, the Mérieux Foundation provided its expertise in the design and management of the construction in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Benin.
A section of the building will be devoted to External Quality Assessment and to the continuous training of laboratory technicians in clinical biology, providing them with access to a structure made up of a classroom, a multimedia room and practical work rooms.
The opening of the building was attended by Dr Honoré Bankole, Head of the Diagnostic Exploration Department, Dr Ali Imorou Bah Chabi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Health in Benin, Jérome Bertrand-Hardy, Director of the AFD Benin, Marc Vizy, French Ambassador to Benin, and Dr François-Xavier Babin, Director of International Operations at the Mérieux Foundation.
This event represented an opportunity to announce the creation of the Diagnostic Exploration department within the Hospital Medicine department, which had until now been just one department. This is a major step towards the institutional development of the medical biology sector.
Dr Géraud Padonou, RESAOLAB representative and coordinator in Benin: “I would like to remind you of the synergies between the seven West African countries involved in the network. These synergies help with the integration of countries in the sub-region, an objective of national governments. Our thanks go to the partners involved in this network and to the Ministry of Health.”
Dr François-Xavier Babin, Director of International Operations at the Mérieux Foundation: “The main aim of this steering committee is to implement the new organisation and to carry out a review of the seven countries, with regards to the crisis, as well as carrying out a regional review. This concerns in particular the assessment of laboratory systems in all countries via an inter-country evaluation, the results of which will be shared during these workshops. I would like to thank all the ministries taking part in the project, as well as the AFD for its long-term support.”
Jérôme Bertrand-Hardy, Director of AFD Benin: “The pandemic has highlighted the Mérieux Foundation’s intuition when it comes to supporting biological analysis laboratories. This crisis has shown the need for diagnostic capacities in all countries to detect emerging and re-emerging viruses, as well as to provide a basis for each country’s ability to respond to the crisis. The RESAOLAB project stands out from other health support systems by targeting laboratories, which are all too often forgotten. This project contributes towards the reinforcement of biological diagnostic capacities.”
Dr Ali Imorou Bah Chabi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Health: “Like the other countries in the network, Benin is committed to this project to improve biological diagnosis for patient care. Our thanks go to the project members and partners. Thank you for this gem of a building, which will house the national laboratory.”
A system of medical biology laboratories providing high-quality services is an essential requirement for improving population health. RESAOLAB – the West African Network of Biomedical Analysis Laboratories – is the first regional programme in West Africa to provide a response to this public health concern. Designed with West African healthcare stakeholders, it takes into consideration all the factors affecting the laboratories’ governance and performance. Its objective is to improve the quality of medical biology services in these seven West African countries, by reinforcing their laboratory systems with a multifaceted regional approach.
RESAOLAB is an innovative network that aims to enhance access to quality diagnostics for vulnerable people in seven West African countries. The project was initiated by the Mérieux Foundation in 2009, in collaboration with the Ministries of Health of Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. Four new countries joined the network in 2013: Benin, Guinea, Niger and Togo. The project entered its third phase in 2019 as part of a partnership between the Mérieux Foundation and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), in order to continue to reinforce laboratory systems.
Since its launch in 2009, RESAOLAB has enabled the deployment of major programmes for ongoing training activities, the construction and provision of equipment for training and quality assurance laboratories and the introduction of epidemiological surveillance systems.
RESAOLAB in Benin
Benin has been a member country of RESAOLAB since 2013. Since its launch, the project has allowed the introduction of measures for training, laboratory supervision, quality assurance and external quality assessment.
About the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency)
The AFD (Agence Française de Développement or French Development Agency) is a public institution that implements France’s policy in the areas of development and international solidarity. Climate, biodiversity, peace, education, urban planning, health, governance… Our teams are committed to working on more than 4,000 projects with a strong social and environmental impact in French overseas territories and 115 other countries. We contribute to the commitment of France and the French people to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).