Uganda's first-ever veterinary laboratories receive recommendation for international accreditation

February 9, 2024 by PATH

KAMPALA - For the first time in Uganda’s history, South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) has recommended two Ugandan veterinary laboratories to receive international accreditation based on ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standards.

The two laboratories are Mbale District Veterinary Laboratory (MDVL) located in Mbale City and Uganda Wildlife Authority Diagnostic and Research Laboratory (UWADRL) based in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Mweya peninsula. The Uganda Wildlife Authority laboratory becomes the first-ever wildlife laboratory to be recommended for international accreditation in the whole of the East Africa region.

The recommendation for accreditation of the two laboratories was announced by two visiting assessors from SANAS, South Africa, at the end of a week-long laboratory assessment exercise that covered both management and technical aspects of the operations of two laboratories.

The USAID Infectious Disease Detection and Surveillance (IDDS) project, which is comprised of a consortium including PATH and represented by PATH in Uganda, provided the technical assistance to the two laboratories for them to successfully reach this milestone of being recommended for international accreditation. With this recommendation, a report by the assessors will be submitted to an approval committee, which will eventually make the final announcement of accreditation, after the management of the laboratories has addressed any areas of concern that were raised by the assessors in their report.

With such a recommendation by an internationally acclaimed accreditation body, Uganda will become the second country in the East Africa region to have internationally accredited veterinary laboratories, one for veterinary health and another for wildlife. The journey to improving the standards of the two laboratories started four years ago, in 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it involved a series of activities including baseline audits, midterm assessments and exit audits.

Reacting to the news of being successfully recommended for accreditation, Mbale District Veterinary Officer Dr. Philip Wakimwere, who doubles as the Director for Mbale District Veterinary Laboratory, said:

"The livestock sector was always pulling down Uganda’s scores of the Joint External Evaluation of Uganda’s preparedness to detect, prevent and prepare for emerging and remerging infections according to International Health Regulations (2005). With this exciting news of our improved laboratory capacity that is internationally recognized, I am hopeful we will perform better in the next joint external evaluation."

Principal Wildlife Veterinary Officer Dr. Eric Morris Enyel, who doubles as the Laboratory Director for Uganda Wildlife Authority Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, thanked the USAID IDDS project team for being relentless in their technical assistance that resulted into this momentous recommendation. He also thanked the Uganda Wildlife Authority for all the financial and moral support given to them as they endured a hectic processes of document development, from the beginning to the end.

“This is a no mean achievement and worth celebrating. We are excited at the news. We have worked tirelessly to put everything in place to meet international standards for ISO accreditation for our laboratory. The support from the USAID IDDS project team has been commendable. I am not surprised that we have this positive outcome. The task ahead of us is to sustain the standards to maintain our accreditation status,” said Dr. Enyel.

The USAID IDDS Country Team Lead in Uganda, Derrick Mimbe, said the two laboratories are strategically positioned in the country, because they are serving hotspots where most of the outbreaks for zoonotic diseases such as anthrax, Rift Valley fever, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, and Marburg, among others, have been happening and indeed have become endemic.

“These labs will now serve as referral points and centers of excellence for learning on zoonoses and supporting the government in providing epidemiological interventions for all the districts neighboring the hotspots for zoonoses,” says Mimbe.

Behind all this effort of accreditation was a dedicated public health microbiologist and surveillance specialist for the USAID IDDS Project in Uganda, Thomas Ssemakadde, who says they have been leveraging the strength of the human health sector through the One Health approach to develop the capacity of the two laboratories to operate at international standards.

“We had a pool of auditors, SANAS in-country trainers, and mentors working together under the coordination of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and supported by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Uganda National Health Laboratory Services. It has a been a journey of building robust laboratory quality management systems,” says Ssemakadde.

As the two laboratories await their accreditation by SANAS, the Government of Uganda is already working out mechanisms to sustain the standards upon which they were recommended for accreditation, without relying only on external donor funding. According to Derrick Mimbe, his team has been working with all partners to lay the groundwork for sustainability of the two laboratories’ quality management systems.

“A lot of advocacy has been done focused on the sustainability component of the laboratories, knowing how time-bound donor-funded projects can be. We have engaged the top management of Mbale district local government and Uganda Wildlife Authority, and they signed letters of commitment to identify resources in their respective annual budgets to sustain the operations of the laboratories as centers of excellence in the country,” says Mimbe.

While addressing the partners at the closeout meeting of the laboratory assessment exercise at the UWA laboratory at Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Country Director for PATH in Uganda, Dr. Mirembe Betty, underscored the need to strengthen the collaboration with line government ministries and agencies and explore strategic partnerships with development partners, including the private sector, to raise resources that can sustain optimal functionality of the two laboratories and maintain their standards for which they will be accredited.

For any media interviews, please contact the following:

Mr. Derrick Mimbe, USAID IDDS Project Team Lead, Uganda

Telephone: 0776 841 038

Dr. Patrick Atimnedi, Senior Wildlife Veterinary Manager, Uganda Wildlife Authority

Telephone: 0772 607 341

Dr. Rose Ademun, Commissioner for Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries

Telephone: 0772 504 746