Global Fund Regional TB Project 3rd Regional Steering Committee MeetingJustus Ashaba
The ECSA – Global Fund Regional TB Laboratory Strengthening Project implementation started in November 2015. In this project ECSA-HC supports the Uganda Supranational Laboratory (SRL) to strengthen TB diagnostics in 18 National TB laboratories (Botswana, Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Swaziland, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
Each year the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) for the project convenes to review progress made during the year, validate and endorse upcoming year work-plans and learn and share experiences from countries. The committee is constituted by the TB Laboratory and TB Programme managers from project countries, TB regional implementing partners, representatives from other SRLs, partners representing civil society, the Uganda SRL and the ECSA secretariat.
The 3rd annual RSC meeting is was held in Kampala Uganda. The meeting was officially opened by the Honourable Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Health Dr Diana Kanzira Atwine. In her opening remarks, the Permanent secretary underscored the importance of this regional TB project towards strengthening TB diagnostics, citing the already visible fruits. In her speech, Dr Atwine mentioned that the project has proven to be more cost effective when it comes to trainings, where the cost of training at SRL is 3 times less than the cost would otherwise be incurred by sending laboratory officers to train in SRLs abroad.
The Director General of ECSA-HC Professor Yoswa Dambisya, present at the opening ceremony thanked the RSC members for the commitments and dedication towards the project implementation. Prof. Dambisya shared his sentiments on how the African continent struggles to attain the global health targets and stated that this project should be used as a springboard by countries to attain the SDGs.
The WHO representative Dr Jean de Dieu Iragena emphasized the importance of taking up new TB diagnostic technologies; the need to enhance laboratory capacities in the countries by using QMS as an entry point; the role of long term TAs and engagement of governments and strengthening of the link between laboratories and clinicians. He emphasized on the importance of exploring the opportunities presented by point of care testing by geneXpert technology for TB as well as HIV testing. He also underscored the need of investment in improvement of quality of services by embracing new technology and strengthening human resources in order to achieve SDGs.
Professor Moses Joloba from the Uganda SRL pointed out the need for regional collaboration to address the challenge of TB in the region given that SSA accounts for only 11% of the world’s population but 80% of TB cases worldwide come from this region and contributes to 25% of TB mortality.