Within a very short period, the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 spread from China across the entire planet. The world was not fully prepared for this pandemic. Test kits and protective masks were scarce, and there is still a lack of laboratory staff and health professionals with sufficient training. The coronavirus crisis shows that dangerous infectious diseases will break out repeatedly all over the world. Faster detection and reaction can prevent illness and save lives. Disease outbreaks must also be mitigated or prevented, because they can put a country’s development at risk. And they sometimes cross borders, affecting other countries. We have already seen this with Ebola fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Plague in Madagascar, Lassa fever in Nigeria, Dengue fever in Sri Lanka and Zika in Latin America.
In order to quickly detect and effectively contain outbreaks of infectious diseases, we need comprehensive and sensitive outbreak detection systems, well-equipped, functional laboratories and health-care facilities, as well as trained and committed specialist staff.
Partner countries are better prepared to detect, diagnose and contain disease outbreaks that otherwise may develop into epidemics or even pandemics.
The German Epidemic Preparedness Team (SEEG) supports partner countries to prepare for and respond to disease outbreaks – at short notice, flexibly, professionally, and globally.
After West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, the German Federal Government wanted to be able to respond to health crises more effectively on an international scale. As a result, it initiated the SEEG in 2015 commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) joining in 2021.
In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the SEEG procures test kits and laboratory materials for various countries and trains laboratory and health-care staff to identify suspected cases and examine samples. Early detection means transmission chains can be interrupted more effectively – containing outbreaks locally and ultimately globally.
To capitalise on synergies and profit from existing expertise, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI), Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), the Charité ‒ Universitätsmedizin Berlin as well as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH are cooperating in this project. Experts from other institutions can also provide support when required.
The diversity of its cooperation partners enables the SEEG to assemble the best team for each assignment and work at the interfaces between human, animal and environmental health in accordance with the One Health approach. The SEEG also coordinates with the World Health Organization (WHO) and exchanges information with non-governmental organisation, pooling and utilising their valuable experience.
The countries of assignment receive support both in achieving the sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda and in developing the core capacities for implementing the International Health Regulations. In this way, SEEG helps prevent an outbreak from becoming an epidemic or even a pandemic. This, in turn, contributes to health security – both in the country in question and worldwide.
Here are some other examples of SEEG’s work and what it has already achieved:
- In Sri Lanka, SEEG has provided laboratories with equipment and trained personnel to improve dengue diagnostics.
- In Peru, SEEG has trained laboratory technicians to test pregnant women for the Zika virus using a new detection system because the pathogen can damage unborn children.
- In Sierra Leone, SEEG has prepared the health system for Lassa fever outbreaks by employing a ‘train-the-trainer’ strategy.
- SEEG has also carried out several assignments to prevent and combat Ebola fever.
Last update: March 2021