Promoting biosecurity

Project description

Programme title: Implementing GIZ’s contribution to the German Biosecurity Programme
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office
Countries: Worldwide; in particular in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mali, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine
Lead executing agencies: Morocco: Ministère de la Santé; Tunisia: Ministère de la Santé; Sudan: Federal Ministry of Health
Overall term: 2013 to 2019

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Context

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrated how highly infectious diseases can endanger the health, security and stability of entire nations and societies. Diseases of this kind can also be spread as a result of accidents in research laboratories or through misuse of pathogens. Experts differentiate between the terms ‘biosecurity’, which relates to the possible misuse of dangerous biological agents, and ‘biosafety’, which denotes protection against biological pathogens. To counteract such biological risks and to contribute to the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) launched the German Biosecurity Programme in 2013. The programme is part of the German Government’s preventive security policy and contributes to the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention.

Objective

Biosecurity expertise and performance capacity are strengthened in the partner countries.

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Approach

The German Biosecurity Programme is jointly implemented by GIZ, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), the German Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, FLI) and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (IMB).

GIZ assists the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) with programme management and public relations. For this purpose, a central programme office was set up within AA and is operated jointly with RKI. The programme is also carrying out 14 projects in 12 partner countries. All programme activities are classified as addressing one or more of six overarching goals:

  • The capacity to prevent and respond to biological risks is improved.
  • Highly pathogenic agents are detected and diagnosed more reliably.
  • Networks are coordinating their work more and more effectively in the event of biological risks.
  • International biosafety and biosecurity standards are increasingly applied.
  • There is greater awareness of the principles, practices and instruments involved in the non-proliferation of biological weapons.
  • Germany and its partner countries exchange information and experience with respect to biosecurity on a sustainable scientific basis.

In the priority countries Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, GIZ works closely with RKI, focusing on activities in the following areas:

  • Raising awareness of biological risks and measures in the field of biosecurity
  • Networking of stakeholders to prevent, detect, detect and respond to biological hazards
  • Strengthening the capacities of state institutions at the interface between health and security

In addition, GIZ supports projects of other German institutes participating in the German Biosecurity Programme in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

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Results

In Sudan, the programme assisted in establishing a national laboratory network. The network facilitates nationwide exchange on biosecurity and helps to fight highly pathogenic agents. It also serves as the central coordination point for all biosecurity-related issues in Sudan. Furthermore, in cooperation with state health agencies, national biosecurity guidelines have been drawn up to establish international biosecurity standards. A strategy for implementing these guidelines is currently being developed. The planned simulation exercise for the emergence of highly pathogenic agents is another example of how the programme is strengthening local capacities in the health sector.

In Tunisia, the programme supported the development of an emergency plan for bioterrorist attacks and epidemics. To ensure implementation of the plan, the programme is currently working with a group of representatives from the ministries of health, environment and agriculture to develop train-the-trainer courses on the early warning and response system. The risk communication strategy for health emergencies is also expected to be officially adopted in the near future. This aims to, in particular, strengthen target group-specific communication with the population and improve mechanisms for structured communication between health authorities in order to stem the spread of disease in emergencies and prevent panic.

In Morocco, the programme has been providing support on risk and crisis communication since 2015. The national strategy for risk and crisis communication and the associated implementation guidelines were adopted in May 2018. Both are based on the fundamental premise that cross-sector cooperation in risk and crisis communication must be initiated before, rather than just during crisis situations. In this context, the programme also focuses on raising awareness of biological threats. Here, GIZ and RKI are assisting the Moroccan NGO Association Marocaine de Biosécurité in organising seminars in which students and teachers from thematically relevant fields are able to discuss biological risks and counter-measures.