The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$63.66 million to create a unique regional network of 25 public health laboratories across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. This network will operate across country borders, improving access to diagnostic services to vulnerable populations in cross border areas and making optimal use of internet and mobile communications to improve public health.
Laboratories are currently the weakest link in the region’s public health defenses, 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 to identify potentially devastating disease outbreaks at an early stage, enabling countries to act quickly to prevent the rapid spread of diseases across borders. Communicating outbreak-related information across national borders in real time is more important than ever before, as labor mobility is likely to increase shortly with the establishment of the East African Community common market and with growing global travel.
The network will also support the roll-out of new technology for drug resistance monitoring and more efficient tuberculosis 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 Millennium Development Goals.