The World Bank approved $63.66 million to create a regional network of 25 public health laboratories across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. The network operating across country borders, will improve access to diagnostic services so that vulnerable populations in cross border areas will be able to make optimal use of internet and mobile communications.
Laboratories are currently the weakest link in the region’s public health defenses, seriously hindering each country’s ability to confirm and respond in a coordinated manner to disease outbreaks. By bolstering diagnostic and surveillance capacities, the new multi-country laboratory network will help to identify potentially devastating disease outbreaks at an early stage and enable countries to act quickly to prevent the rapid spread of diseases across borders.
Communicating outbreak-related information across national borders in real-time is more important than ever before, as the workforce becomes more mobile with the establishment of the East African community common market plus global travel is continuing to grow.
The network will also support the roll-out of new technology for drug resistance monitoring and provide for more efficient tuberculosis diagnosis most notably for people living with HIV/AIDS. All four countries have a high burden of tuberculosis with an increasing threat of drug resistance. Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are on the World Health Organization (WHO) list of 22 “High-burden” countries that together account for 80 percent of the world’s tuberculosis cases while Rwanda is on the WHO list of 15 high TB incidence countries.
Information and communication technologies are an essential aspect of the project to ensure advanced connectivity between multiple locations. Innovations that will be built into the project include web-based knowledge sharing, e-learning modules, and health alerts. The project also supports joint training and capacity building across countries, joint operational research, regional coordination, and program management.
Each participating country will become a Center of Excellence for a key aspect of the project. Rwanda will take the lead on ICTs and performance-based financing. Kenya will serve as a center for integrated disease surveillance and response and for operational research. Uganda will take the lead on laboratory networking and accreditation, and Tanzania will develop high quality training programs.
Several partners have contributed to the development of the project including CDC, WHO, USAID, and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Parallel financing for specialized TB diagnostics will be provided through the International Drug Purchase Facility grant to support the EXPAND-TB Project (a collaborative effort of the WHO/Global Laboratory Initiative), the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics, and the Global Drug Facility.
For information on the World Bank in Africa, go to www.worldbank.org/Afr.