Experts of Technical Working Groups Meet in Dakar to Review Draft Guidelines of the West Africa Integrated Vector Management Platform
African Union Development Agency NEPAD, in partnership with the West Africa Health Organization facilitated a consultative meeting of Technical Working Groups (TWGs) to review draft guidelines of the West Africa Integrated Vector Management Platform (WA-IVM).
The meeting brought together 50 experts who are members of the TWGs of the WA-IVM platform. The experts are nominated by their respective countries and are drawn from national biosafety committees or agencies of ECOWAS countries, national ethics committees and drug regulatory agencies. The WA-IVM platform was established and inaugurated in August 2018 in Accra, under the joint facilitation of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and the West African Health Organization (WAHO) of ECOWAS.
The platform is organized around a steering committee, and four technical working groups inaugurated last April in Abidjan. The main role of the technical working groups is to prepare technical documents in different fields relevant for the safe testing and subsequent deployment of new and novel vector control tools. .
In his opening speech, Mr. Abdou Karim Sall, Senegal Minister in charge of Environment and Sustainable Development welcomed the participants and said that “The topic that brings us together concerns mosquitoes in the context of the fight for the elimination of malaria, which disease has caused the African continent and its populations too much suffering. I would like to remind you, here, how much the weight of this disease and its heavy consequences negatively impact the sustainable development efforts that are made daily by our governments and our populations south of the Sahara.”
Dr Mahama Ouedraogo, Director of African Union Human Resources Science and Technology, seized the opportunity of being in Dakar for another meeting to pay a visit to participants. He said that he was pleased he could meet the different TWGs. He highlighted the importance of the IVM platform not only for the West Africa region but for the whole continent. “Vector-borne diseases like malaria are a burden that is impeding the development of African countries and African Union fully supports the IVM initiative that will help control these diseases in an effective and holistic way.”
TWG chairpersons share their views on the results achievedDr Sheila Tamara Shawa, Senior Programme Officer from the Africa Center for Disease Control of the Africa Union Commission (AUC) affirmed that “this is a very good meeting because we are setting the guidelines and we are looking at how ECOWAS member States can have in place regional guidelines to ensure there is safety in implementing technologies like the gene drive.”
During the meeting, each working group was able to amend and reach consensus on draft guidelines in their respective thematic areas. At the end of the group work, chairpersons of TWGs shared their views on the results achieved.
The meeting put into practice the integrated approach to working with two different sessions: one where the Technical Working Groups met separately as experts in Health product regulation, Biosafety Regulation, Ethics, and Disease Management and Vector Control and then as combined groups with each made up of experts from all the four Technical Working Groups.
Dr Oumar Traore, from Agence Nationale de Biosecurité of Burkina Faso and Director of Laboratoire National de Biosecurité; Chairperson of the TWG on biosafety.
“We are working here as TWGs so that things move the best way for the implementation of the IVM platform. In my working group we worked on two guidelines: the guidelines for Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) and the guidelines on compliance, monitoring and inspections of transactions involving gene drive arthropods. These guidelines will help to have a common working ground for all the ECOWAS member States even though there might be some specificities from one country to another. Researchers, IBCs and national regulators all have the same objective: develop products that are safe for people. However, each stakeholder must understand his/her responsibility and regulators especially must fully play their role including taking sometimes sanctions to make sure scientists and their institutions comply with safety conditions and regulations. The present guidelines will help achieve this throughout the ECOWAS region.”
Dr Aicha Drame, Pharmacist, Head of Division des Etablissements et laboratoires pharmaceutiques, Direction Nationale de la Pharmacie et du Medicament, Ministere de la sante, Guinée Conakry
« This meeting is very timely as it seeks to meet a very important need in the West Africa region. Our working group focused on import/export, transfer, handling, labelling and storage of genetically modified arthropods. We were able to fully discuss the issues around this thematic area. Every member of the group was able to add his/her input to the document which is now well crafted and I am confident it be finalized very soon.”
Dr Moussa Guelbeogo, Entomologist, anti-malaria Specialist from the Ministry of Health, Burkina Faso
“Our working group worked on the guidelines on containment facilities for the testing of genetically modified arthropods. We were able to amend the document and add significant inputs. Given the enthusiasm of the members of the group during the discussions, I am confident we will be able to continue to share information through emails after this workshop to refine the document before submitting it to the Steering committee.”
Dr Aissata Toure, Pharmacist and Biologist, member of Senegal Comité Nationale d’Ethique pour la Recherche en Santé, and Chairperson of the Ethics TWG of the IVM platform.
“This meeting was really fruitful and we worked on important documents that will guide policy makers. In a short time, we did our best to improve the draft guidelines submitted to us. Our group worked on a guidance document for the testing of genetically modified arthropods. This document presents the IVM initiative and the different technical aspects such as biosafety, risk analysis, ethics, community engagement and all the issues linked to IVM. We were able to peruse the document and add inputs for its improvement.”