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Seven regional countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and host Kenya, are participating in this year’s KEMRI/JICA Third Country Training Programme (TCTP) which commenced virtually on Monday, 4th October 2021 at KEMRI Headquarters.

The workshop which brings together 15 participants, was officially opened by Acting Director-General of KEMRI, Prof. Sam Kariuki and the JICA Chief Representative in Kenya, Mr. Iwama Hajime.

Addressing the forum, Prof. Kariuki, “TCTP is an important period for us & JICA especially, looking at the long-term collaboration we have had with the People and Government of Japan,” he said adding, “JICA has continuously for more than four decades, worked with us in this area of capacity building that has contributed making KEMRI what it is today, a premier Human Health Research Institute that caters for not just Kenya but the whole region as well.”

Prof. Kariuki went to enumerate some of the benefits of the long historic relationship between the two organizations as thus, “the construction of the Central Laboratory Complex at the Headquarters in 1980 and the capacity building initiatives through the initial third-country training programmes in blood safety between 2001-2005 and the now very popular school deworming programme between 2004-2008.” He noted that so successful was the school deworming programmes that the government, through the Ministry of Health, are keen to up-scale it in endemic counties in the country.

The other flagship projects of the KEMRI/JICA friendship were in the laboratory enhancement initiatives that saw the agency undertake the construction of the Level 3 Biosafety facility at the KEMRI Headquarters which has largely contributed to the Institute’s effective and efficient response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emerging and re-emerging infections in the region.

AG. DG Prof Sam Kariuki, Ag. Director Scientific Programmes, Partnership & Grants Management, Dr. Kizito Lubano and other KEMRI Management individuals listen to JICA Representative Mr. Iwama Hajime During the official opening of TCTP

It is against this background that the current training programme was mooted four years ago. Like the other initiatives, these particular ones are aimed at building institutional and human capacity of over 100 medical personnel involved in emergencies in Eastern Africa countries through training, equipping and skills transfer, while strengthening the laboratory networks in the target region to better respond to emerging infectious diseases.  “In this era of COVID-19 pandemic, it is timely to welcome you the participants drawn from national, regional and/or local health authorities you’re your respective countries that are involved in laboratory preparedness and response,” he said adding that the training was timely given that they are frontline workers involved in the COVID-19 response activities.

On his part, the JICA Chief representative, Mr. Iwama Hajime intimated that the agency had deliberately taken steps to rebrand globally as an agency that is keen “to strengthen our work in protecting people’s lives is prevention, precaution & treatment in which we aim to support the campaign of Universal Health Coverage.” He added, “this training program in my view fits very well in this initiative and we look forward to strengthening our activity and capacity preparedness and response across the regions.”

He intimated that JICA was implementing partnership for building resilience against public health emergency through advanced research and education that has three major components including institutional capacity development, specialized human resource development and partnership with global and regional initiatives.

The meeting was told that JICA’s role in the East African region was to strengthen laboratory capacity so that countries are well prepared to respond to outbreaks, a capacity-building need that has been demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic that it is lacking.

Mr. Hajime urged all participants to share their knowledge, experience, ideas, and innovation through this programme and build strong networks to formulate and implement strategies that will contribute to building systems plus UHC in Africa.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Acting Director Scientific Programmes, Partnership & Grants Management, Dr. Kizito Lubano, project coordinator, Dr. Allan Ole Okwala and Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Davis Mkoji, Mr. Vincent Okoth from the Grants Management among others.

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