Inauguration and first meeting of WA-IVM Technical Working Groups

African Union Development Agency – NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) in collaboration with the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment in Cote d’Ivoire, organized the inaugural meeting of WA-IVM Technical Working Groups (TWGs) from 24 – 26 April, 2019, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Dr. ABLE, Inspector General of the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, representing the Minister, co-chaired the opening ceremony with Mr LAVRY, Technical Advisor of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.

A view of the high table during the opening ceremony. In the center, Dr ABLE, 3rd from left and Mr. LAVRY.

In his keynote address, Dr ABLE welcomed participants and thanked organizers for choosing Cote d’Ivoire for such an event. He also stated that “nobody has the right to stay insensitive to the malaria tragedy imposed on us by mosquitoes. While acknowledging the significant progress made during the last decade and our common move against malaria, we must today admit that unless alternative strategies are developed and implemented, the global objective to control malaria from 2016 – 2030 and reduce cases and mortality due to malaria by 40% by 2020 will not be achieved.”

The programme covered the official swearing-in of the members of the Technical Working Groups, selection of Chairpersons and Rapporteurs of the TWGs and the review of detailed terms of reference of the TWGs. As part of the programme, each TWGs work plan and capacity strengthening needs were also reviewed.
The nominees from the Member States are expert TWGs and some of them were not familiar with gene drive for the control of malaria so the general objective was to improve knowledge and enhance capacities of participants in the management and regulation of gene drive technology for malaria vector control. Specifically, the programme provided participants with information on the burden of malaria in Africa, gene drive technology for vector control, increased awareness among key actors on their role, and the significance of having functional regulatory systems for gene drive technology and establishing a platform for regional discourse.
Various presentations were made, which improved TWG members’ understanding of the malaria burden of Africa and approaches and tools for malaria. Participants also gained knowledge on basic, science-based information on gene drive technology for malaria control, essence of regulation and the governance structure and the role of WA-IVM.

Group picture of the TWG members with officials from Cote d’Ivoire government, AUDA-NEPAD, and WAHO.

The establishment and inauguration of the WA-IVM platform comprising ECOWAS Heads of National Biosafety Agencies, National Ethics Committees, National Medicines Regulatory Agencies was facilitated by AUDA-NEPAD in August 2018 in collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO).
Depending on their expertise, TWG members are in four different working groups: TWG on Health Regulation, TWG on Biosafety Regulation, TWG on Disease Management and Vector Control, and TWG on Ethics. It is expected that TWG members will provide expert opinion on matters referred by the Steering Committee before any recommendation is made to the relevant ECOWAS Ministers and to the ECOWAS Heads of States who will decide the way forward for the regional economic community.