The head of the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Teko, Makeni, Nyabengi Tito Tipo, has confirmed that African Swine Fever (ASF) was killing pigs in Freetown and other places last year. She added, “80% of the diseases found in humans come from animals. That is why we have to keep the animals in check in case of an outbreak. Including now the corona virus, which they claim comes from animals.” Tito Tipo was speaking during a one-day ministerial visit. She noted, “There is connection between human and animal health. That is why it is very important that we have a livestock lab.” She said, “The laboratory is a key institution required in every nation because it safeguards the human health, the animal health, and productivity and food security. It also relates to safety of trade. For certain products to be exported they have to go through certain protocols and if the laboratory is not available to do the requisite tests, it affects the trade.” Jacqueline Kasiti Lichoti, Lab Technician at the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Teko, Makeni, reiterated, “The test we conducted on the ASF, was sent to a reference laboratory in Plump Island, USA, specializing in exotic diseases, and the results came back the same.” The laboratory is an airborne Level Two safety facility with the right protective masks, gloves, clothing, and vaccines, she added. Tipo furthered, “The lab can undertake prompt diagnoses, carry out investigation of outbreaks, quality control of parasites, vaccines, drugs, livestock, food and feed in line with international conventions such as the World Organization for Animal Health, the World Health Organization (WHO), Codex, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)” Meanwhile, the Central Veterinary Laboratory was equipped by FAO with funding from USAID. It started operations, in October 2019. “The current diagnostic exercises undertaken in the lab are fundamental experiments around trans-boundary animal diseases, and zoonotic diseases. These are diseases, which are transmitted between humans and animals. The facility and equipment in the lab cost $10 million USD. After the project, the lab will be handed over to the government. “Funds is needed for the sustainable running of the lab,” Tito Tipo added. Lichoti, the Lab Technician, said, “There are 990 vaccines available for rabies, but, 80% of the dog population are diseased. The virus samples we collected and are working with came from Kenema and after analyzing them we send them to South Africa for confirmation. We have over 20,000 vaccines from FAO funds and some from ECOWAS but keeping them in frozen state requires power.” The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dennis K. Vandi, said, “The challenges highlighted are noted and we will sit down to look at them. The right set of skills and personnel to man this lab is required. There are set criteria in this field, which the lab technicians should have. “You cannot move from lab technician to lab manager,” he said. He spoke on human capital development and stressed the personnel should be trained and ready to run the lab after the experts depart.
By David Thoronka