After the welcome address by the Coordinator of the Benin TNP, the annual meeting was officially launched by Dr. Frank Bonsu, in his capacity as Coordinator of the Ghana NTP and Co-Chair of the WARN-TB. Several sessions were held during the meeting.
During the first session, the WARN-TB secretariat first provided an overview of all the activities carried out by WARN-TB since its creation, through Dr. Wachinou Ablo Prudence, assistant to the Executive Secretary. Achievements include: (i) strengthening the tuberculosis surveillance system in member countries through the development of a tuberculosis module on the DHIS2 platform, (ii) training of monitoring and evaluation officers on data entry and analysis in DHIS2, (iii) training on operational tuberculosis research and support for the implementation and development of research projects. Then, Dr Corinne Merle of WHO/TDR made a presentation on WHO-TDR’s support to national tuberculosis control programmes in West African countries to strengthen tuberculosis research and strengthen the health information system through DHIS2. She pointed out that WARN-TB has other partners who also contribute in various areas. The presentations that followed Dr Merle Corinne’s presentation focused on the WARN-TB Terms of Reference (TOR) and the sharing of experiences from some countries that have made some progress in creating a framework for operational research and implementation of activities. Three themes were addressed in the context of sharing the innovative experiences of WARN-TB member programmes. Thus, Senegal, through Dr Marie Sarr (Coordinator of the NTP) enlightened the audience on the establishment of the Operational Research Task Force and the activities carried out by the latter since its creation. Burkina Faso, through the TNP Coordinator, Dr. Combary Adjima, explained the process of developing their operational research plan on tuberculosis. The representative of the coordinator of Guinea, Dr Magassouba Sidiki, presented the experience of the Guinea TNP on capacity building in operational research on tuberculosis.
During the 2nd session, Prof. Affolabi Dissou, in his capacity as head of the supranational laboratory of Benin, made a presentation on the project on the strengthening of national laboratories in West and Central Africa and the role of the supranational laboratory of Benin. Since the Benin laboratory has been promoted to supranational laboratory by WHO, the only one so far in West Africa, this project would be an opportunity for NTPs in West and Central Africa, given all the problems encountered in transporting samples to existing supranational laboratories. It should be noted that the Benin laboratory will be in consortium with other supranational laboratories that will have to support it in all the tasks of the project. The project covers 25 countries and focuses on several strategic areas: improving the services provided by these laboratories, improving the impact of molecular diagnostics, strengthening the capacities of national reference laboratories and strengthening the capacities of the Benin laboratory to help laboratories in the sub-region to set up a quality control system and supporting the drafting of PNT concept notes for the laboratory. At the end of the session, a presentation by Dr Henriette Wembanyama focused on the assessment of the research capacities of NTPs in the 11 Central African countries. Only two of the 11 countries have a research focal point, only one TNP has an operational research taskforce and only one country has an operational research plan. All the coordinators of the Central African NTPs argued that it was necessary for their region to have a network similar to the WARN-TB. They therefore decided to create the Central African Regional Network for Tuberculosis control (CARN-TB).
The following day, the presentations initially focused on the situation of the working groups and ways to improve their effectiveness. Subsequently, a discussion was held to examine how the WARN-TB experiment could be replicated for NTPs in the Central African region. At the end of the discussions and in order to capitalize on the achievements and experiences of WARN-TB, an idea gradually emerged to have two networks (WARN-TB & CARN-TB) but with a single executive secretariat at least during the first year of CARN-TB’s existence. The second activity of this session was to give the floor to technical and financial partners to express themselves.