Experts in the prevention and management of Tuberculosis (TB) and representatives of health ministries from 18 countries in southern and eastern Africa have established a new regional network.
The newly established “South and Eastern African Regional TB Network (SEARN-TB) aims to improve the coordination and harmonization of TB control strategies, focusing on encouraging implementation and operational research and the effective use of research outcomes to strengthen TB control throughout the region.
Representatives from Botswana, Comoros, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Somaliland, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Zambia, Somalia Republic formed the network.
Addressing participants of the workshop with a keynote speech, the Acting Representative of WHO-Ethiopia, Dr. Nonhlanhla Dlamini, said, “The network will play an essential role in strengthening coordination and harmonization of TB control approaches among countries with a particular focus on promoting the implementation of operational research and the efficient use of research outcomes to strengthen TB control efforts in countries.
“TB research networks are essential to boost national capacities for TB research and innovation and generate quality evidence for TB patient-centered prevention, treatment, and care. It is also an important opportunity for us in the region to work collaboratively towards achieving the End TB goals”, Dr. Dlamini Said.
She added that the network would facilitate greater communication and cooperation between National TB Programs (NTPs) and partners, promote sharing of best practices for TB control across the member states, and enhance advocacy and resource mobilization to support national efforts.
The network will further promote operational research, harmonize strategies and best practices for TB control across the region, and support advocacy and resource mobilization efforts.
The Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) at the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global TB Department of WHO (GTB), the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), and the WHO Regional Office for East Mediterranean Region (EMRO) as well as WHO-Ethiopia Country Office (WHO-Ethiopia), Damien Foundation, are all collaborating with key international partners towards the formation of the network.
Officially opening the workshop, Dr. Abera Bekele, Senior Advisor with the Ministry of Health Ethiopia, said that collaboration among African countries to achieve the end of TB is critical as each NTP in Africa has a unique strength and best practice that can be successfully adopted and implemented by neighboring countries.
“Established in 2001, the TB Research Advisory Council (TRAC) of Ethiopia has significantly helped the country in bringing together the academia, research institutes, regional health bureaus, the National TB Control Program, and international partners in the fight against TB, thereby registering an encouraging evidence-based intervention in improving the TB management’ The advisor said.
He added that similar structures and networks at regional and sub-regional levels would help amplify the successes achieved at national levels.
TDR will provide financial support via internal funding and a recently awarded grant from the German Ministry of Health through TDR’s partnership with the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).