The West African Reference Laboratory Network (WARLN) was set up in 2017 by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO)  through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  It was founded to enhance regional support for member countries on biological diagnosis quality and accessibility and surveillance capacities, as well as early detection of Public Health threats.

The 2nd Annual Regional Reference Laboratories Network meeting was held in Lomé, Togo from the 28th to 30th March 2022, and was attended by UKHSA IHR Strengthening Project staff, Dr. Olusola Aruna, (Nigeria Country Lead/Senior Public Health Advisor), and Dr. Olubunmi Negedu-Momoh (Technical Adviser on National Reference Laboratory). The meeting was organised by the WAHO with attendance from all 15 ECOWAS countries, as well as delegates from academic institutions and stakeholders in the region, and international global health and development partners.

The meeting focused on a regional roadmap for the surveillance and control of antimicrobial resistance (AMR); entomological surveillance of Arboviruses; regional Biological Risk Management, Policy and Strategic Plan; and regional support for Quality Management Systems (QMS).

UKHSA participants met Prof. Isiaka Sombie, WAHO’s Director of Public Health and Research who represented the Director General of WAHO. Prof. Sombie was pleased to see UKHSA’s participation in the meeting, and hoped for continuing UKHSA support to WAHO/RCSDC. 

The UKHSA team also met with the Laboratory Lead for WAHO (Dr. Abdourahmane Sow) to discuss areas of support provided by WAHO and UKHSA to Nigeria and the need for collaboration going forwards. WAHO currently supports five (5) Reference Laboratories in Nigeria for specific disease entities:

  • National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Gaduwa, Abuja as Regional Laboratory for Avian Influenza and other respiratory infections
  • Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL), Lagos as Regional Laboratory for Cholera and bacterial diarrhoea
  • Lagos University Teaching Hospital Laboratory as Regional Centre for Viral Haemorrhagic Fever (VHF) and Arboviruses
  • National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom for zoonotic diseases 
  • National Arbovirus and Vectors Research Centre, Enugu for Arboviruses.

Dr Sow highlighted WAHO’s recognition of the invaluable support provided by UKHSA to NCDC Laboratories  (NRL Gaduwa and CPHL Lagos) especially the significant improvement seen in their Stepwise Laboratory Quality Improvement Process Towards Accreditation (SLIPTA)  audit performance and star rating.

The WAHO meeting ended with the presentation of the award of excellence for all the performing Reference Laboratories in the West African Laboratory Network. The NCDC NRL was leading in the West African Sub-region with a WHO- AFRO 5-star rating followed by CPHL with a star rating of 4. The leadership of NCDC, the laboratory team and the UKHSA were commended for their demonstrable commitment to QMS implementation