January 17, 2018
The Sierra Leone Central Veterinary Laboratory at Teko, in Makeni was inaugurated on Thursday, 14 December 2017 to revamp operations as the country’s main referral place for providing services for animal health.
The newly rehabilitated laboratory was inaugurated by His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in the company of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Health Project Management Specialist for Sierra Leone and Guinea, Cynthia Macaully, and the Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) in Sierra Leone, Nyabenyi Tipo.
The Laboratory was rehabilitated by FAO in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) as part of the Global Health Security Agenda with financial support of USAID.
President Koroma, in his inaugural statement told the gathering that he considers the operationalization of the laboratory as a giant step and as an epic journey towards the attainment of food and nutrition security; the development of the livestock sub-sector and as a key to opening new livelihoods and employment opportunities for young people.
“My government is cognizant of the fact that livestock is an essential component of our nutrition across the country, and we are also aware that livestock production level can be increased and nutrition status improved by addressing diseases that affect domesticated animals,” he acknowledged.
The USAID) Health Project Management Specialist for Sierra Leone and Guinea, Cynthia Macaully, on behalf of the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy to Sierra Leone, stated that the newly renovated laboratory will enable veterinary scientists to investigate animal samples for diseases that affect both animals and humans such as rabies, anthrax, and other diseases. “These diseases have the potential to cause not only illness in humans but also great economic impact through the loss of livestock when animals are infected”, she cautioned.
She, on behalf of USAID, pledged continued support to FAO in providing essential laboratory equipment and training MAFFS’s laboratory technicians to carry out key diagnostic tests.
The FAO Representative in Sierra Leone, Nyabenyi Tipo stated that, “Although Sierra Leone has a small livestock population, but investing in the disease diagnostic capacity is paramount, and it must be done with the purpose of safeguarding human health and wellbeing.”
Miss Tipo informed the gathering that FAO has trained over 30 field officers that are able to investigate outbreaks and collect samples, thus keeping the Teko Central Veterinary Laboratory running.
She assured that FAO shall continue to focus on strengthening the surveillance capacity of Sierra Leone and addressing gaps in the process.
The Teko Central Veterinary Laboratory was established in the 1949 to provide animal health services to farmers in Sierra Leone, especially in the north. The laboratory became renowned in the areas of bacteriology, parasitological, haematology, histopathology, serology, production of vaccine against Contagious Bovine Pleuro-pneumonia (CBPP) and research, which made it one of the major referral center on animal health in West Africa.
Work in the lab declined over the years due to the destruction caused by civil conflict, lack of constant funding, lack of maintenance of equipment, lack of reagents, lack of consumables, and staff attrition.
With the funding from USAID, FAO has undertaken major renovations, including structural changes on the building, construction of perimeter fences, provision of water and electricity, adequate disposal of hazardous materials.
In the past few years, FAO has provided equipment to Teko, which included heavy and light machines that are found in the most modern laboratories of the world. A number of these equipment are in good state and shall be put in use in the newly renovated laboratory. FAO is also procuring additional equipment worth USD $300, 000 due for delivery in the first quarter of 2018.