The African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) convened a meeting of over 1000 field epidemiologists from Africa and beyond from 8 – 12 August 2016 to discuss strategies of enhancing Global Health Security through Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPS).
During the meeting, a side ministerial meeting hosted by Federal Minister of Health of Nigeria, Hon. Prof. Isaac Adewole, and chaired by the Minister of Health from Uganda, Hon. Judith Ruth Aceng from Uganda, Health Ministers and representatives from over 10 African countries pledged to support of training more field epidemiologists to combat outbreaks and strengthen surveillance systems at national and local government levels. The ministers pledged to support the African Field Epidemiology network in establishing more field epidemiology training programs in Africa. AFENET currently operates in 28 African countries namely: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe. AFENET implements 16 training programs as well as a frontline basic epidemiology training course in most of the countries where AFENET is present.
Dr. Kenneth Ofosu-Barko, Executive Director, AFENET and Dr, Sani Gwarzo, Program Director for the Nigeria Field Epidemiology Training Program, made a presentation to ministers on the support FELTPS have offered to Ministries of Health and also advocated for the establishment of a Continental Rapid Response Corp which advocates for a faster response to outbreaks. AFENET would like use her already existing trained public health workforce to create a Rapid Response team. Ministers signed a memorandum in support of AFENET’s agenda. Through AFENET, Field Epidemiology Training Programs have been key to enhancing the Ministry of Health’s ability to respond effectively to disease outbreaks in Africa. AFENET envisions a healthier through the improvement of capacity of health systems to manage disease outbreaks and other priority health problems.
AFENET has trained over 2000 public health professionals and local health workers with the skills on response to outbreaks. Over the years, Residents and graduates of FELTPs have participated in over 1000 outbreak investigations that range from a number of diseases: Polio, cholera, measles, influenza, and food – borne outbreaks, rabies, whooping cough, meningitis, rift valley fever, dengue, yellow fever, fluorosis, Lassa fever, Marburg, Ebola and anthrax among others. More than 1000 public health professionals have graduated from these programs have been offering support to Ministries of Health in various African countries. Residents and graduates of the training programs have also participated in zoonotic disease outbreak detection and response, and support immunization campaigns and laboratory strengthening for accreditation using the World Health Organization (WHO) Stepwise Laboratory Accreditation Scheme.
In the five day meeting in Abuja over 900 field epidemiologists from all over the world to discuss new strategies to combat disease outbreaks. Participants made Over 360 scientific presentations and 20 key note presentations on key public health issues.
The African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) was established in 2005 as a non-profit organization and networking alliance of African Field Epidemiology (and Laboratory) Training Programs (FELTPs), and other applied epidemiology training programs. AFENET is dedicated to helping ministries of Health in Africa build strong, effective, and sustainable programs with capacity to improve public health systems partnering with global public health experts. The network’s goal is to strengthen field epidemiology and public health laboratory capacity to contribute effectively to addressing epidemics and other major public health problems in Africa. The meeting was supported by key stakeholders such as CDC, WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), among others.