World Bank initiative expected to spur progress on TB diagnosis in East Africa

28 May 2010 - Geneva - The Stop TB Partnership today welcomed the announcement by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors that it will provide US$ 63.66 million to Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda to create a regional network of 25 public health laboratories.

Several partners contributed actively to the design and development of the project, including the United States Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the United States Agency for International Development and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Parallel financing for specialized TB diagnostics will be provided through a UNITAID grant for the EXPAND-TB Project which is a collaborative effort of WHO/Global Laboratory Initiative, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility.

"We congratulate the World Bank for this very important milestone. This is a good example of partners working together to ensure better TB control," said Dr Marcos Espinal, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "The World Bank could become a leader in expanding this partnering initiative to other regions."

Lack of laboratory capacity to diagnose TB and in particular MDR-TB is a roadblock to progress against TB in most African countries. The new multi-country laboratory network will support the roll-out of new technology for drug resistance monitoring and more efficient tuberculosis diagnosis, most notably for people living with HIV/AIDS. The project also supports joint training and capacity building across countries; and joint operational research, regional coordination and program management.

"The East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project addresses a key gap in the continental response to TB", said Eva Jarawan, Sector Manager, Health, Nutrition and Population for Africa at the World Bank. "It represents our strong commitment to strengthening the provision of regional public goods and to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals."

The network will operate across country borders, improving access to diagnostic services to vulnerable populations in cross border areas and making optimal use of internet and mobile communications. All four countries have a high burden of tuberculosis with an increasing threat of drug resistance. Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are on the WHO list of 22 high-burden countries that together account for 80 percent of the world’s TB cases.

"We applaud the Bank for addressing the critical gap in laboratory capacity in this region in a manner that will not only expand access to TB diagnosis to all people in need but strengthen health systems in a sustainable and coordinated manner," said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Stop TB Department. "We hope this project will set a precedent for similar initiatives in other regions heavily affected by TB and particularly MDR-TB."

Information and communication technologies are an essential aspect of the project to ensure advanced connectivity between multiple locations. Innovations that will be built into the project include web-based knowledge sharing, e-learning modules, and health alerts. The project also supports joint training and capacity building across countries; and joint operational research, regional coordination and programme management.