Unam inaugurates a state-of-the-art laboratory

Funding assistance from German government
The Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL3) Laboratory will help Unam deepen its long-standing ­academic ambitions, such as enhancing its research agenda and training with internationally renowned universities.
Staff Reporter
The Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL3) Laboratory was officially inaugurated this week at the University of Namibia (Unam) School of Medicine.

The inauguration was officiated by Herbert Beck, the German ambassador to Namibia.

Dr Emmanuel Nepolo, head of the Unam molecular diagnostic laboratory, said the “the new BSL-3 facility is a sign that Namibia is on the right trajectory in establishing local laboratory infrastructure and capacities in the country that will make it less dependent on other countries in terms of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.”

In efforts to strengthen the resilience of the Namibian health system, the German ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ) provided funding.

The German Development Bank KfW funded the infrastructure for the laboratory to the tune of N$6 million.

In addition, through the Federal States Programme, implemented by GIZ, laboratory equipment and materials were procured to the amount of N$3.5 million.

The Namibian side, through Unam, contributed N$1 million. Additional human capacity development is also supported.

Support healthcare goals

At the inauguration, it was highlighted that tuberculosis (TB) continues to affect 10 million and kill 1.6 million people each year worldwide.

According to the World Health Organisation, Namibia is one of the 30 high-burden countries for TB, with approximately 12 000 people testing positive for the disease annually, of which 1 500 cases are fatal.

A crucial pillar for improving healthcare in the medium and long-term and reducing the burden of infectious diseases is the existence of suitable research and diagnostic capacities in Namibia.

The laboratory is designed to conduct research and sustained diagnostic testing in the areas of Covid-19, TB, HIV and other infectious pathogens such as rabies and avian influenza, among others. Such a facility could also support One Health surveillance activities and field interventions in Namibia.

The facility will increase responsiveness and capacities in the country’s health sector as a whole, in close cooperation with the health ministry, the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) and other stakeholders.

State of the art

The laboratory, designed in compliance with international standards and manufactured in South Africa, comprises a containerised structure, including medical equipment and a dedicated plant room for filter-controlled air flow.

This state-of-the-art laboratory incorporates a series of facilities such as reagent preparation, specimen receiving, ante, culture, and detection rooms.

The funding from the German government will enable Unam to deepen its longstanding academic ambitions, such as enhancing its research agenda and training with internationally renowned universities.

Thus, the project aims at equipping the School of Medicine with the necessary equipment to increase research outputs and diagnoses of public health relevance.