The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), through its Emergency Center for Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD), has handed over diagnostic kits for priority zoonotic diseases valued at approximately US$500,000.00 to the Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).
The CVL facility of the MoA is situated at University of Liberia, Fendell Campus, outside Monrovia.
The gesture is funded by USAID with the objective of supporting the Global Health Security Agenda which aims to address zoonotic diseases and animal health in Liberia and the rest of the African continent.
The initiative further aims to support the Liberian government to address critical capacity gaps in the animal health sector so as to safeguard human health.
Presenting the different kinds of diagnostic kits to the CVL, the FAO ECTAD international laboratory expert, Dr. Sabenzia Wekesa, said since the refurbishment of the CVL, by USAID, every year close to US$300,000 worth of diagnostic materials are procured with funding from USAID through the FAO to equip the facility.
“About US$300,000 is spent annually to furnish the lab. The main reason is to safely guard public and human health. Safeguarding animal health is the key to ensuring the health of humans. The materials were made available to strengthen the animal health and surveillance system of the country,” she disclosed.
She said initially, about US$2 million has been spent to purchase equipment and diagnostic materials to get the lab more functional.
“The equipment has been purchased over the period but the process slowed down due to the COVID pandemic,” she mentioned.
She said that the laboratory requires that it be fully equipped for the diagnosis and control of animal diseases in the country.
According to her, the lab is now fully equipped to diagnose the various types of animal diseases.
“USAID is helping the country to achieve the global health security agenda,” she said.
According to the FAO ECTAD international lab expert, since the refurbishment of the lab, the country has been able to discover rabies and other animal diseases within the country.
“We also have the solar system and the available electricity to ensure that the lab can deliver the various services required,” she added.
Also speaking, FAO country Representative, Mariatou Njie said that her institution is very much pleased to support the government in addressing the issues facing the animal health sector.
“These equipment are very expensive. We have also trained the staff capacity to be able to run the various samples to make the lab very functional,” she said.
She called on the government to put in place a sustainable measure that will make the lab work sustainable.
“We want the Ministry to provide the staff with necessary support to make the lab functional in a sustainable way. The Ministry needs to think about the operation cost and be able to plan for it. We are thankful to the USAID for providing the funding to the lab. We hope the equipment provided and the staff capacity built will enable the lab to remain functional. We want this lab to become a reference lab as it is in other countries,” she emphasized.
She further said that with support from USAID, Liberia can also boast of a regional lab that is used to detect or diagnose diseases of animals coming into the country.
“We were able to support the regional lab in the country. The regional lab is there to check animals that are brought into the country. Animals coming into the country will have to get quarantined before having them integrated,” she said.
Leila Andrews, the Deputy Minister for Technical Services at the MoA, who received the materials on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, Jeanine M. Cooper, expressed the gratitude of the Ministry for the continuous support provided to the CVL.
“We understand that besides providing these equipment our staff are being trained and the policy and strategic plan of the lab has been developed. We are so grateful for those developments,” she said.
“We promise that we will ensure that the lab will be used for the intended purpose,” she added.
Speaking earlier, the Chief Veterinary Officer of Liberia, Joseph R. N. Anderson, describes the donation as a milestone for the lab.
“The FAO remains a great partner to the improvement of the lab since its establishment to current. We are highly appreciative of the continuous support to the country’s Central Veterinary lab to cure animals’ diseases,” he said.