Experts from laboratory systems strengthening, disease surveillance and outbreak response, health policy, and Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) gathered in Lusaka, Zambia for a three day meeting of the 2nd regional Community of Practice (CoP) on laboratory and surveillance. During the meeting, the experts reviewed the guidelines for Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR) TB surveillance. The guidelines will now be finalized in readiness for adoption by Member States.

The aim of the meeting was to review progress in implementation of laboratory and surveillance activities from the country work plans of 2018 and update these going forward in to 2019. The meeting took place from 19 – 21 September 2018 and was officially opened by Dr. Andrew Silumesii, Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Zambia. It was recommended that a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework be developed and built in to the 2019 CoP work plan as this will help to track implementation progress during the course of the year. In addition, it was agreed that the countries should operationalization the National CoP as a means for better in-country coordination and adherence to the agreed One Health Approach

The meeting also provided a platform to bring the various experts to strategize on how to achieve international ISO accreditation. It was recommended that accreditation road maps for target laboratories with clear timelines and milestones be developed and ensure that at least 1 laboratory enrolled in the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health Systems Support (SATBHSS) project gets accredited by 2020. In order to achieve this there will be need to seek high level commitment to support accreditation plans and also investment in human resource (quantity and quality) for target laboratories. It was observed that few laboratories have achieved international accreditation requirements of quality with less than 500 laboratories accredited in Africa and more than 80% of them in Southern Africa.

Furthermore, participants reviewed the draft ‘Framework for Cross-Border Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response for the SATBHSS project and recommended to include guidance at technical level on areas of coordination, synergies with existing cross-border initiatives and modes and content for communicating at the zonal level. It was recommended that there should be synergies on laboratory and surveillance between the national work plans and the SATBHSS project work plan, the activities should be aligned and there should be harmonization to maximize on the impact.

The meeting was attended by experts from the four countries participating in the SATBHSS project, Lesotho, Malawi. Mozambique and Zambia. In addition, there were also experts from the Kingdom of eSwatini, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and development partners.

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