Malawi has adopted the One Health Approach to combating diseases. In efforts to further strengthen disease surveillance, the country has successfully completed the second multi-sectoral training in laboratory based disease surveillance involving Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR), environmental and laboratory officers. The training took place in Salima district from 23 – 27 July 2018.

A total of 17 participants were trained with 4 of these being surveillance and environmental officers. The training strengthened in-country capacity for surveillance and improved laboratory capacity in handling disease outbreaks, as well as other health related emergency preparedness and response. Participants gained knowledge after the training and this was assessed through observations during practical sessions and an administered pre-test and post-test assessment. All participants showed a positive gain ranging from a percentage increase from as low as 10% to as high as 48% between pre-test and post-test, indicating an average increase in knowledge of 38%.

During the official opening, the National TB Reference Laboratory Manager, Mr. Mabvuto Chiwaula indicated that Malawi continues to strengthen surveillance as part of its preparedness by training more officers, following the success of the initial training that took place in January 2018. He was speaking on behalf of the NTP Manager, Dr James Mpunga.

“Disease surveillance and outbreak preparedness and response require a multi-sectorial approach as recommended by the One Health Approach. This approach provides a platform for establishing a working relationship between surveillance and laboratory staff which is key in surveillance and outbreak response,” Mr Chiwaula said.

Senior Laboratory Specialist from East Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC), Dr. Talkmore Maruta reaffirmed his organization’s commitment to continue supporting Malawi through technical assistance. He stated that one of the deliverables on the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health Systems Support (SATBHSS) project is to strengthening diagnostic capacity and surveillance of diseases and other events of public health importance in project participating countries.

The capacity training was divided in to two (2) modules focusing on specific technical areas. Module one focused on the role of the laboratory in surveillance and disease control from sample collection, transportation to processing, surveillance data management and communication. The participants also conducted a scenario-based skills-drill that uses a progressive scenario together with a series of scripted injects to practice and demonstrate capacities and skills needed to early detect and effectively respond to a potential outbreak. Module two focused on laboratory techniques with specific topics as well. This module also involved conducting a field visit where participants split into three groups to visit Salima Hospital water source (borehole) where they sampled water; Salima markets where they sampled food and the hospital kitchen and theatre respectively.

After the training, three recommendations were made as follows; (i) to conduct the training close to a facility that is able to offer a laboratory with adequate space, reagents and supplies (ii) to utilize the ongoing process of laboratory mapping to identify laboratories to be strengthened to provide microbiology services (culture and DST) as well as processing of environmental samples (iii) and to organize additional laboratory based training to build capacity of surveillance and laboratory staff.

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