Regional centre of excellence for biosafety, biosecurity launched

HEALTH Minister, Ms Ummy Mwalimu on Monday launched the Regional Centre of Excellence for Biosafety and Biosecurity (RCoEBB) at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).

Speaking during the launch, which went hand in hand with the handing over of a certificate from the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), she said the government is making various efforts to ensure the health of Tanzanians and all those living within its borders are protected.

“The ministry highly observes national and international standards in ensuring that dangerous pathogens resulting from testing and research in the laboratory do not spread in the community and cause harm,” explained the minister.

She added that the protection of the parasites is very critical because they could be used as biological weapons, if they spread accidentally or deliberately.

“The ministry is implementing a strategic plan for biosafety and biosecurity, prepared by the Africa CDC, which is a major stakeholder in charge of prevention and improving health services for African member countries,” she said.

She said to strengthen the efficiency of responding quickly; member states in the Africa Region need to improve their capacities in disease recognition and laboratory competence, including biosafety and biosecurity capacities.

Explaining how Tanzania got the opportunity to host RCoEBB, Minister Ummy said Africa CDC issued an announcement to African Union (AU) for member countries to submit applications.

She said Tanzania officially sent applications on September 20, 2022, which was approved.

Minister Ummy further stated that Tanzania now joins South Africa, which was designated as a Regional Center of Excellence for Southern African countries, and now Tanzania will serve East African countries.

On the other hand, the Representative from Africa CDC, Dr Talkmore Maruta, congratulated the government of Tanzania under President Samia Suluhu Hassan for taking swift measures to control Marburg spread.

“This transparency in sharing information in real time is a key indication of your government’s commitment to ensure our communities are safe and secured. No one is safe until everyone is safe,” stressed Maruta.

Dr Maruta also praised the efforts made by the country, together with the efforts of other AU member states, which have enabled it to work towards fulfilling member states’ regional mandates, which is to strengthen the capacity for public health institutes, to dictate, prevent, control, and respond quickly and effectively to disease spreads.

He said the presence of this centre  in Tanzania will be of great help to East African countries in detecting and fighting disease outbreaks.

In May 2019, Africa CDC, in collaboration with African Union member states and its regional and international partners, launched the Biosafety and Biosecurity Initiative, whose goal is to strengthen the biosecurity and biosafety systems of African Union Member States to comply with the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540.

To ensure coordinated implementation, Africa CDC developed a Biosafety and Biosecurity 5-Year Strategic Plan with five priority areas, one of which was the establishment of a locally developed, regionally endorsed, accessible, and sustainable regional training and certification program for Biosafety and Biosecurity. Graduates will be enrolled in the African Union Register of Biosafety and Biosecurity Experts.

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