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Scientists call for measures to enhance disease surveillance in West Africa

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Research and medical scientists have urged West African governments to strengthen laboratory systems at all levels across the sub-region to better detect and manage infectious diseases.

They said there was the need to enhance disease surveillance, epidemic prevention and laboratory system capacity in readiness for emerging and re-emerging infections.

The scientists, at a recent CelebrateLAB West Africa 2021 Conference in Accra, said: “Health Laboratory systems in West Africa face a number of challenges including inadequate infrastructure and limited capacity to detect drug resistance diseases”.

“This is coupled with lack of robust gene sequencing facilities, whiles lack of standards across laboratories in the sub region remains a significant issue.”

A press release to the Ghana News Agency proposed regional and national investment of about five per cent of GDP in surveillance systems and for pandemic preparedness.

It also called for the establishment of an integrated surveillance of COVID-19, Ebola, Lassa Fever, Typhoid and other infections.

The release said access to vaccines and treatment was crucial to global health security.

“The recent Covid-19 crisis revealed countries’ lack of adequate preparedness to pandemics, non-compliance with international best practices and ill- suited medical research. It also highlighted the need to prioritise accreditation of clinical, research and public health laboratories as a matter of urgency,” it said.

The release said governments must support local innovations and manufacturing of laboratory equipment through the support of start-ups with tax waivers and other assistance that created a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

“Local innovators and businesses in the sector face a number of obstacles including competition from government and government agencies, unstable currency, taxes and import duties, and regulatory demands and cumbersome processes – which seems to be stricter for local businesses and start-ups than foreign ones,” it said.

The release called for the development of a waste management programme that included segregation of laboratory waste at all levels, and training of laboratory personnel and cleaners in waste management to prevent infectious disease spread.

CelebrateLAB is an annual meeting for research and medical laboratory professionals, which brings together stakeholders including physicians, regulators, policy makers and vendors to discuss ways to strengthen diagnostics across West Africa to improve health outcomes.

It was on the theme: “Combating emerging and re-emerging infections through standardisation of laboratory practice across West Africa.”

Source: GNA

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