The African Field Epidemiology Network held her 1st Francophone Conference in DRC from 27 – 29 March 2017. In an effort to consolidate regional partnership and advocate for the unique needs of Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPs), in the francophone region, AFENET convened the three day meeting in Kinshasa, graced by the DRC Minister of Health Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
The conference was hosted by the DRC FELTP supported by the Ministry of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The DRC FELTP is among 30 other AFENET Member Programs in Africa. These programs have trained over 1500 public health professionals in the 2 year advanced FELTPs and more than 2000 in the 3 - month frontline FETPs. AFENET member programs have greatly contributed to strengthening public health systems by developing a skilled field epidemiology workforce that is critical for effective public health surveillance and response, and disease control.
In recognition of AFENET’s contribution to public health in Africa, Ministers of Health attending a Ministerial round table in Abuja, Nigeria, recommended the scale-up FELTPs to all other African Countries. In order to consolidate the above, AFENET organized the francophone conference to serve as a platform for the francophone countries to share their unique experiences in implementing FETPs. During the conference countries engaged in discussions to foster country ownership and sustainability of the basic and intermidiate field epidemiology training programs.
The meeting targeted high level ministry of health officials, Program Directors, Resident Advisors and selected alumni of the francophone FETPs. In addition, representatives from francophone countries not yet implementing similar programs were invited to the meeting. Countries represented included: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’ivory, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Togo, Rwanda, Burundi, Niger, Benin, and Guinea Bissau.
AFENET provides services for it’s member programs including faculty exchanges, curriculum development & standardisation, participation at regional scientific conferences for residents and graduates, implementing joint public health projects and outbreak investigation & responses addressing public health needs of respective countries. In addition, AFENET provides an efficient alternative mechanism through which development partners channel program funds there by mitigating delays due to bureaucratic procedures typical of government institutions.
Graduates of FELTPs have been of great support to Ministries of Health. The DRC Alumini association displayed vibrancy and presented some of the activities undertaken as support to the Ministry of Health in DRC. They also discussed plans to scale up and ways to strengthen the network.
The conference was closed by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Health who conveyed the Minister’s appreciate to AFENET’s work in the region. Also in closing remarks, Prof. Tshimanga Mufuta, Chairman of the AFENET Board of Directors, explained that AFENET’s focus will be in the creation of a Rapid Response Corp working with alumni associations to build an ever ready workforce that can be deployed to countries whenever in crisis. He emphasised the need to increase scientific publications as well as support of francophone countries to participate in the Case Study trainings to be held in Atlanta. AFENET has the capacity and have displayed this over the years.