The genesis and evolution of the African Field Epidemiology Network
AbstractIn an effort to contain the frequently devastating epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa launched the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) strategy in an effort to strengthen surveillance and response. However, 36 sub-Saharan African countries have been described as experiencing a human resource crisis by the WHO. Given this human resource situation, the challenge remains for these countries to achieve, among others, the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This paper describes the process through which the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) was developed, as well as how AFENET has contributed to addressing the public health workforce crisis, and the development of human resource capacity to implement IDSR in Africa. AFENET was established between 2005 and 2006 as a network of Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) and Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPs) in Africa. This resulted from an expressed need to develop a network that would advocate for the unique needs of African FETPs and FELTPs, provide service to its membership, and through which programs could develop joint projects to address the public health needs of their countries. A total of eight new programs have been developed in sub-Saharan Africa since 2006. Programs established after 2006 represent over 70% of current FETP and FELTP enrolment in Africa. In addition to growth in membership and programs, AFENET has recorded significant growth in external partnerships. Beginning with USAID, CDC and WHO in 2004-2006, a total of at least 26 partners have been added by 2011. Drawing from lessons learnt, AFENET is now a resource that can be relied upon to expand public health capacity in Africa in an efficient and practical manner. National, regional and global health actors can leverage it to meet health-related targets at all levels. The AFENET story is one that continues to be driven by a clearly recognized need within Africa to develop a network that would serve public health systems development, looking beyond the founders, and using the existing capacity of the founders and partners to help other countries build capacity for IDSR and the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005).
Pan Afr Med J. 2011; 10(Supp 1):2