Experts at the just concluded 7th African Conference on One Health and Biosecurity hosted by the Lagos State Government, in partnership with a non-governmental organisation, Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET), have identified health systems strengthening, research and capacity building as the panacea for tackling biosecurity threats and emerging infectious diseases in Africa.
Speaking on recommendations and resolutions reached at the three-day hybrid conference, held between Tuesday, 27th and Friday 29th October, 2021 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island Lagos, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi noted that professionals and stakeholders across health, agriculture, environment, security and allied sectors as well as the development sector and civil society in Africa have recommended that African countries should strengthen their health systems by establishing biobanks and biosecurity councils for effective deployment of responses against emerging infectious diseases.
He added the conference also advocated consistent efforts towards building capacities to respond to biosecurity emergencies and flattening the waves of infections as part of proactive strategies against adverse effects of emerging diseases.
While noting that Africa should be the leader in biosecurity development, Abayomi said the conference affirmed that policymakers and governance in the continent should support scientists and the health profession to strengthen biosecurity, stressing that medical and epidemiological services must be enhanced to guarantee biosecurity.
Dr. Abayomi stated that the conference suggested the integration of Antimicrobial Resistance Control Guidance into healthcare delivery systems at the governmental level, while non-governmental stakeholders including youth, faith-based organisations and civil society groups need to ramp up their involvement within sociocultural peculiarities of communities to influence behavioural changes.
The Commissioner opined that a deliberate, consistent and policy-driven intervention of the armed forces and other security agencies as well as immigration departments should be put in place to avert and contain access of unauthorised persons and non-state actors to biological agents.
According to him, other recommendations of the conference include the need for the development of a framework for the establishment of the Africa Centre for Genomics, Data Management and Bioinformatics as custodian of the repository for accessibility to molecular bioresource data in Africa.
Speaking in the same vein, the Chief Operating Officer, GET Consortium, Dr. Ayodotun Bobadoye, stated that delegates, stakeholders and participants at the conference had agreed to deploy conscious engagement in demanding improved funding for research and development in Africa’s health sector to prioritise capacity building and exchange of ideas on best practices amongst professionals, researchers and stakeholders towards addressing the emerging realities around biosecurity and one-health initiative.
He noted that the conference reaffirmed commitment to genomics and precision medicine to address challenges of emerging diseases as well as pursue a strategic framework for vaccine accessibility, production and distribution, adding that the conference affirmed the importance of addressing antimicrobial resistance in healthcare pipeline within the African Continent.
The just-concluded 7th African conference on ‘One Health and Biosecurity’ attended by professionals and stakeholders across the Africa continent provided a unique forum for robust interactions on biosecurity threats and the imperative for genomic intelligence and efficient healthcare responses in Africa.
The conference received presentations from resource persons cutting across the healthcare sector, agriculture, the environment as well as from the development sector and civil society to arrive at the declaration and recommendations.