Wednesday of November 3rd, 2021, the Uganda Wildlife Authority received a state-of-the-art modern laboratory for diagnosing zoonotic diseases, especially in wildlife. The US$3,049,572 facility was constructed and equipped by the financial technology and capacity development with the assistance of the American Government and the American people through the Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). And these species are The Sandian National Laboratories, New Mexico, USA, and Centre for Disease Coordination (CDC) Atlanta and support from the DTRA facilitated the Staff support capacity of the laboratory and veterinary personnel.
The bio-safety level II laboratory was commissioned by the Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquity Hon. Rtd. Col. Tom Butime and the United States of America Ambassador to Uganda Her Excellency Natalia Brown at Mweya in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
In his speech the Minister of Tourism Hon. Butime said the laboratory marks a new era in diseases surveillance and prevention. He said that various factors such as climate change, globalization, increased human population, urbanization, intense human wildlife-livestock interaction, host abundances and susceptibility, rapidly changing land-use patterns have brought new emergence and re-emergence infectious diseases across the globe, Uganda inclusive.
Hon. Buteme said that “in order to ensure optimum health for humans, animals, wildlife included and the shared environment, we need a multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary approach to tackle disease issues with commensurate supportive infrastructures for disease prevention detection and management”. The minister exploded appreciations to the American Government for the support towards construction and equipping of the laboratory.
The USA ambassador to Uganda Natalia Brown reaffirmed the commitment of the USA government to supporting animal disease prevention through the provision of appropriate diagnostic facilities. As well hailed at the good relationship between the USA government and the government of Uganda, Natalia expressed hope that with a well-equipped laboratory Uganda Wildlife Authority will be able to detect animals and apply appropriate veterinary interventions.
Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director Mr Sam Mwandha confirmed that this is the first-ever Wildlife Diagnostic Laboratory in Uganda Wildlife Authority. The facility will support Uganda Wildlife Authority’s Diagnostic and surveillance work, assist the neighbouring districts with livestock disease diagnosis and support the academia and research institutions to develop, innovate as well as build capital development. He said that there is a need to be vigilant because Uganda is at risk of the emergence of Monkeypox, disease outbreaks from the West and Central Africa with epidemics reports in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
Mr. Mwandha said these being zoonotic diseases with potential for bio-weapon, we cannot afford to be complacent in our active surveillance, early detected and prevention approaches. Therefore, the laboratory comes in handy to help is with early detection so that we can put in place appropriate veterinary interventions.
Mr. Mwandha being the current chairperson of the National One Health Platform in Uganda, said the commissioning of the laboratory is historical because it coincides with the commemoration of the 6th National One Health Platform whose focus is “fostering partnerships and collaboration for effective and sustained One Health multi-sectoral coordination mechanism at the national and sub-national level. “We want to ensure that we have a functional multi-sectoral collaboration that delivers a more coordinated response to zoonotic diseases”. Mwandha said.
Through transboundary collaboration with the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo Coordinated by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, the laboratory will assist in testing samples shipped from the Virunga’s. We are set to join the network of national, regional, and international laboratory systems for enhanced capacity and working towards being recognized and recorded in the national laboratory records.