The East African Community (EAC) public health laboratory network has received a $63.66 million World Bank (WB) grant to creat a unique regional network of 25 public health laboratories across Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
A WB communiqué says the network will operate across country borders, improving access to diagnostic services to vulnerable populations in border areas and making optimal use of internet and mobile communications to improve public health.
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the grant at the end of last month.
According to Rogers Kayihura, WB’s Communications and External Affairs Officer in Kigali, Rwanda will receive $15.01 million.
“The fund will be used, among other things, to help build the capacity for video conferencing and develop websites to serve as a platform for sharing information and results of the research,” Kayihura said, noting that the financing is an IDA (International Finance Association) grant.
“The line ministry for the programme is the Ministry of Health and specifically, the National Reference Laboratory.”
The WB says that laboratories are currently the weakest link in the region’s public health defences, 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 identify potentially devastating disease outbreaks at an early stage, and enable countries to act quickly to prevent the rapid spread of diseases across borders.
Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice-President for Africa, is quoted in a statement saying that the WB is committed to supporting regional solutions that target important missing links in regional infrastructure, greater trade integration, and cross-border health issues critical to accelerating the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The network will also support the roll-out of new technology for drug resistance monitoring and more efficient TB diagnosis, most notably for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Greater access to diagnostic services is expected to significantly contribute to improved health outcomes, and ultimately to attaining the MDGs.
The WB notes that the project will serve as a vehicle to implement strategic disease control priorities of regional institutions.
Through this project, Kenya has received a credit of $23.5 million, Tanzania $ 15.05 million, and Uganda $10.01 million.
The credits are approved on standard terms of a 40-year maturity with a 10-year grace period provided by IDA.