The Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) on Monday, October 25 signed a financing agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the construction of the National Health Referral Laboratory. The agreement will see RBC receive EUR 22 million from the EIB and an additional EUR 5.1 million from the European Union through the World Health Organization (WHO) as an implementation partner. In July 2020, the government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning submitted a financing request to the EIB for the construction and equipping of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) in line with EIB emergence response and preparedness initiative. Dr. Daniel Ngamije, minister of health said the “Rwanda Covid-19 health resilient project… intends to finance the construction and equipment of a building which will integrate four divisions.” The four divisions, he said, include medical technology, the national centre for blood transfusion, the national reference lab, and the research, innovation and data science division. He said they expect to build a state of the art facility in Kigali as part of the national plan for integrated pandemic requirements and Covid-19 response. “The project can potentially include early intervention from the Covid-19 response plan as discussed and agreed with the bank. The NHLS building will meet international standards for a reference laboratory with biosafety level 2 requirements,” he said. According to him, it will help detect infectious diseases and provide antimicrobial resistance testing laboratory and biosafety level 3 for multi-drug resistance tuberculosis, influenza testing and other respiratory pathogens of global concern. Ngamije said the implementation of appropriate, robust, evidence-based efforts and intervention to deliver quality health services requires strong collaboration with different stakeholders. Dr. Brian Clever Chirombo, the WHO representative to Rwanda said this initiative is part of mechanisms to strengthen the capacity of countries and the world to respond to pandemics, particularly to prepare for future pandemics. “Rwanda has made major progress in not only the area of health but also the responsiveness to the Covid-19 response. There is about a strategy of the country in terms of human capacity development and infrastructure development,” he said. Chirombo pledged continued partnership in the implementation of this project, adding that he looks forward to Rwanda becoming part of the international network of laboratories that provide such services. Vaccine manufacturing Meanwhile, Ngamije said there is progress with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing pointing at the scheduled signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, on October 26, with partners in relation with the vaccine manufacturing. “We realized that you can’t manage a pandemic without the strong capacity to test and know what it’s about, at one point you need to know which type of variant you are facing as a country,” he said. “We used to consider, in the past that expenses related to health as a burden but with Covid-19, we came to realize that spending for health is a strategic investment we should do,” he added. Rwanda and Senegal have been chosen to support the manufacture of mRNA vaccines and supply to member states of the African Union in partnership with BioNTech.