Fortifying institutional resilience against biological threats project launch


Recognising the risks emanating from the accidental or deliberate release of animal pathogens and zoonoses, WOAH developed and adopted its Biological threat reduction strategy, through which it collaborates with key partners at the health security interface, including the Global Partnership against Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The COVID-19 pandemic,  African swine fever, and other events of international concern have recently exposed gaps and vulnerabilities in emergency preparedness and response of the international community to all hazards, including to events arising from crime and terrorism.

Through previous work funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), WOAH has identified gaps in the emergency management capacity of some of its Members, particularly in Africa. These include a lack of resources (financial, legal, human, and material) to implement contingency plans, inadequate representation of Veterinary Services in cross-government frameworks, and weaknesses in collaboration with the security sector. Its Members have mandated the WOAH to promote the role of Veterinary Services in One Health resilience and to better support them through its scientific networks, coordination mechanisms and readily available tools.


Through the Fortifying institutional resilience against biological threats (FIRABioT) Project, WOAH aims to develop an organisation-wide sustainable emergency management system allowing it to respond to events linked to deliberate or accidental releases of biological pathogens in an agile and efficient manner, incorporating the technical response to an emergency and ensuring business continuity. More importantly for the Africa region is that WOAH will also implement targeted activities to support Members in Africa and support the GP Signature Initiative to Mitigate Biological threats in Africa (SIMBA).

The present meeting aims to kickstart the FIRABiot Project activities in Africa, aimed at improved capacity of Members to respond to emergencies resulting from deliberate releases.

Now that the beneficiary countries have been identified, WOAH will develop eLearning resources, emergency management personnel exchanges involving representatives from Veterinary Services and Law Enforcement, and security-relevant WOAH Focal Point Seminars to build emergency management capacity.

More generally speaking, WOAH will ensure that its Members have access to the latest science and expert knowledge gained from academic studies, ad hoc Groups, technical workshops and from WOAH’s Reference Centres and will disseminate good practices for emergency management (covering deliberate releases of pathogens).

Beneficiary countries (following succesful submission of an expression of interest) are :

  • Algeria
  • Congo (Republic)
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Kenya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Tanzania
  • Zimbabwe

The FIRABioT Project is funded

Picture (c) Joana Maia Pita (2022)

This inception workshop will lay the foundations for the improvement of selected WOAH Member Countries’ abilities to respond to emergencies (including bio-crime and bio-terrorism events). This will specifically entail the following steps, identifying critical shortcomings in the following four areas :

  1. Emergency management
  2. Disease intelligence
  3. Sustainable Laboratories
  4. Veterinary Legislation

At the end of the workshop, country participants would be expected to be (more) familiar with the concepts of biological threat reduction, emergency preparedness and response, simulation exercises, legislative aspects and aspects of law enforcement, surveillance approaches and systems, laboratory biosecurity, biosafety, etc…

Simulation exercice. Picture (c) Joana Maia Pita (2022)

Fifty percent of the time will be allocated to interactive sessions whereby clusters of countries have the opportunity to share their experiences, strengths and perceived weaknesses and identify potential actions that can improve some or all of the above competencies, in the framework of this project, and from the ground up. It is also the opportunity to bring together a coalition of interested partner organisations, both at international and regional level.

These include :

  • Africa CDC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Birmingham, UK
  • Biological Defence Laboratory, Portuguese Defense Force, Lisbon, Portugal
  • EMC-AH, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome, Italy
  • Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, AU-IBAR, Nairobi, Kenya
  • International Federation of Biosecurity Associations (IFBA, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology), Kakamega, Kenya
  • International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI, Kabete, Kenya
  • INTERPOL, Lyon, France
  • Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell’Abruzzo e del Molise “G. Caporale”, Teramo, Italy. WOAH Collaborating Centre on Epidemiology, modelling and surveillance.
  • National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. WOAH Collaborating Centre on Surveillance and Control of Animal Diseases in Africa.
  • Pan-African veterinary Vaccines Centre, AU-PANVAC, Debre-Zeit, Ethiopia. WOAH Collaborating Centre on the quality of veterinary vaccines in Africa.
  • SEGA One Health, Indian Ocean Commission, Port Louis, Mauritius
  • United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, UNICRI, Makati, Philippines
  • Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC), London, UK

Note that this is an event exclusively targeting accredited national veterinary officers from beneficiary countries and identified observer and partner organisations.

Contact : Dr P. Bastiaensen, Regional Programme Officer, Nairobi.



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