Uganda Wildlife Authority has acquired a state-of-the-art biosafety level II laboratory for the diagnosis of zoonotic diseases, especially in wildlife. The laboratory was commissioned on November 3, 2021, by the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Hon. Rtd. Col. Tom Butime and the United States Ambassador to Uganda Her Excellency Natalie Brown at Mweya in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
In his remarks, Hon. Butime noted that the laboratory marks a new era in disease surveillance and prevention in the country. He observed that various factors such as climate change, globalization, increased human population, urbanization, and intense human-wildlife-livestock interaction have brought new emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases across the globe, Uganda inclusive. “In order to ensure optimum health for humans, animals including wildlife and the shared environment, we need a multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary approach to tackle disease issues with commensurate supportive infrastructure for disease prevention, detection, and management,” he said. He expressed his appreciation to the United States government for the support towards the construction and equipping of the laboratory to full functionality.
The United States Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown reaffirmed the commitment of the United States Government to support animal disease prevention through the provision of appropriate diagnostic facilities. She expressed hope that with a well-equipped laboratory, Uganda Wildlife Authority will be able to detect animal diseases and apply appropriate veterinary interventions.
The UWA ED Sam Mwandha said that lab was the ever Wildlife Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in UWA. The facility will support UWA’s diagnostic and surveillance work, assist the neighboring districts with livestock disease diagnosis and support the academia and research institutions to develop, innovate as well as build human capital development. He said that there is a need to be vigilant because Uganda is at risk of the emergence of Monkeypox disease outbreaks from West and Central Africa with epidemics reported in Cameroon, DRC, and Nigeria. “These being zoonotic diseases with potential for bio-weapon, we cannot afford to be complacent in our active surveillance, early detection, and prevention approaches. Therefore, the laboratory comes in handy to help us with early detection so that we can put in place appropriate veterinary interventions,” he said.
Through transboundary collaboration with Virunga National Park in DRC coordinated by Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, the laboratory will assist in testing samples shipped from the Virungas. The lab was set to join the network of national, regional, and international laboratory systems for enhanced capacity and is working towards being recognized and recorded in the national laboratory records.
The US Dollars 3,049,572 facility has been constructed and equipped by the financial, technical, and capacity development with assistance from the American Government and the American people through Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Specifically, the Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico, USA, and Centres for Disease Coordination (CDC) Atlanta with support from DTRA greatly supported the staff development capacity of our laboratory and veterinary personnel.
Mr. Mwandha who is the current Chairperson of the National One Health Platform in Uganda said the commissioning of the laboratory was historical because it coincided with the commemoration of the 6th annual world One Health Day. He added that the One Health platform seeks to provide an interface for One Health sector actors and other stakeholders to dialogue and exchange views, knowledge, and experiences on issues related to the implementation of One Health in the country. “The focus is on fostering partnerships and collaboration for effective and sustained One Health multi-sectoral coordination mechanism at national and sub-national levels. We want to ensure that we have functional multi-sectoral collaborations that deliver more coordinated responses to zoonotic diseases”, said Mwandha.
The sectors under the One Health Platform include the Ministries of Health, Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Water and Environment, and Uganda Wildlife Authority. The event was attended by dignitaries from various US and Uganda Government institutions, conservation partners, and local leaders among others.