Japan to Build Reference Lab for Ebola, Other Diseases

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A Japanese medical delegation has pledged to build a state-of the-art medical laboratory in Liberia that will be used to carry out research on infectious diseases, including the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD). The EVD outbreak ravaged every sector of the economies of the three worst-hit nations in the Mano River Union (MRU) basin.

According to statistics of the 2014 EVD outbreak, among the three West African nations, Liberia recorded the highest number of deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that from December 2013 to March 30, 2016, Guinea, where the virus onslaught began, has reported at least 2536 deaths; while Liberia’s outbreak which began in March 2014 to March 30, 2016, has recorded 4806 and Sierra Leone, which announced their EVD outbreak a month or two after Liberia, has reported at least 3955 deaths. This is the worst ever Ebola outbreak recorded in history since the disease was discovered in the mid-1970s.

The visiting Japanese Association of Medical Logistics for Disaster (JAMeLD), which was on an assessment mission to Liberia, presented its vision on strategies to assist the country in the prevention of infectious and other diseases including the EVD during consultations with authorities of the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders in the health sector.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, JAMeLD, which was led by its Executive Director, Dr. Yasuhiro Yamamoto, and included its Director, Ryo Chida and Advisor, Dr. Milanga Mwanatambwe, had earlier met with Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara. They were accompanied to the country by Liberia’s Ambassador accredited to Japan, Ms. Youngor Telewoda.

Foreign Min. Kamara thanked the team for considering Liberia as a destination for a reference laboratory and venue for research on the Ebola virus and other infectious diseases.

Minister Kamara expressed Liberia’s full preparedness to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Japanese medical team to launch their work in Liberia. She paid a special tribute to Ambassador Telewoda for her farsightedness and for the level of engagement and collaboration to bring the Japanese medical specialists to Liberia for such a meaningful venture that would enhance the nation’s Ebola recovery process.

She stated that she was not surprised at Japan’s intervention in areas of disaster management and prevention looking at the country’s expertise in its own disaster management. She said Japanese intervention in Liberia’s latest outbreak is very critical to the country’s post-Ebola recovery efforts.

She recounted many post-Ebola challenges but added that Liberia is now coping with the situation as it begins to build a resilient health system following the outbreak.

Minister Kamara signed the MOU on behalf of the Liberian government, while Dr. Yasuhiro Yamamoto, who also heads the Japanese Ebola Countermeasure Medical Group (JECM) affixed his signature on behalf of his group.

Speaking earlier, Dr. Yamamoto said they had come to Liberia on the assessment mission based on an invitation extended to them by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when she paid a state visit to Japan.

He thanked Minister Kamara for the warm reception, adding that they had come to assist the country overcome its Ebola emergency situation.

Dr. Yamamoto added that they were here to share knowledge with Liberian professionals on the control and prevention of other infectious diseases, including Ebola. He stressed that his team will especially share technical ideas with Liberian health professionals using the Japanese ways and methods of handling emergency cases and managing disasters; emphasizing the wealth of experience Japan has in disaster management.

As part of plan, they are expected to give support and back up to logistics for medical care at the research lab when a wide scale disaster occurs in collaboration with Liberian medical personnel – doctors, nurses and other staff. They will also coordinate with relevant parties on the dispatch of medical teams and supplies to emergency areas. They will secure and supply medical equipment, including drugs, and other supplies for medical care, as well as keeping the site in a hygienic condition.

They will provide training of Liberians in logistics management for medical care on disaster and carry on collection and analysis of data regarding logistics for medical care on the disaster for a next case.

Before the guests left Liberia, they visited the Liberia Institute of Biomedical Research (LIBR), the John F. Kennedy Memorial and the Redemption Hospitals in order to locate a suitable site for the construction of the reference laboratory that would enhance the control and prevention of subsequent Ebola outbreaks in Liberia.

MOU
Under the MOU, the Japanese have committed to provide high standard methods of early detection, care, training and research under the guidance of scientific methods, well established and highly recommended by the Japanese Scientific and Medical Technology Societies, closely working with the JECM.

The JECM will provide, exhaustively explain and submit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs comprehensive documents on the medical technology of the highest standards to prevent occurrences and reoccurrences of the deadly outbreak of infectious diseases, including Ebola.

The parties also agreed that the cooperation between the JECM Group and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs be strengthened to focus on specific key elements including: development of infrastructure for the National Public Health Institute; provision of medical logistics; the establishment of a National Public Health Reference Laboratory; and human resource capacity building, focusing on training in the following areas: disaster response and pandemics preparedness; infectious diseases specialists; emergency medicine specialists; and public health specialists in epidemiology, virology emergency preparedness, and research methodology.

Under the MOU, the JECM Group and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also focus on laboratory specialists in support to National Reference Laboratory, bio bank and blood safety; emergency medical services (EMS); emergency medical education; and establishing an exchange program between Liberian and Japanese specialists to engage in learning research and training.

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