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“Our goal must be a world in which good health is a pillar of individual well-being, national progress, and international stability and peace. This cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community, and civil society.”

— Kofi A. Annan, ex-Secretary-General of the United Nations

PAHEF at Work 

Laboratory Capacity Strengthened in Aceh, Indonesia after Historic Tsunami

Yesterday an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island and a 2-foot high tsunami hit Sumatra’s shores at Padang northeast of the epicenter. There have since been several aftershocks, one as high as a magnitude of 6.2. Yesterday’s events are a reminder of the December 2004 tsunami.

With support from the Pan American Health and Education Foundation, the capacity of microbiology laboratories in Aceh, Indonesia, were strengthened.

In Aceh province, Indonesia and based on the needs of microbiology laboratories, local laboratory directors designed a capacity building project to present for funding. With this information at hand, the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) saw the clear need for capacity building as part of critical efforts for rebuilding the health infrastructure in the affected areas.

The $30,000 grant made through the PAHEF-ASM Tsunami Relief/Recovery Partnership Fund was awarded to the World Health Organization (WHO) office in Indonesia, and its implementation was managed by the WHO office in Lyon (France) for epidemic and pandemic alert and response. The capacity-building activities involved providing technical assistance to prevention public health offices, public hospitals, and academic institutions; expanding knowledge on setting up and managing a quality assurance/quality control program for the surveillance of communicable diseases and outbreak investigation in microbiology laboratories; strengthening communication and collaboration among microbiologists, clinicians, and public health officials; and building international partnerships. For example,

  • Laboratory directors visited other public health institutions in Malaysia providing a unique opportunity to interact with experts in Malaysia and learn from their rich experience in the field of medical microbiology and laboratory services.
  • The WHO and US Centers for Disease Control Manual for laboratory identification and antimicrobial sub-debility testing of bacterial pathogens of public health importance in the developing world was used to prepare a simplified laboratory manual for identification of enteric pathogens that was translated to the Indonesian (Bahasa) language for training laboratory diagnostic technicians during the project period.

An example of the antimicrobial susceptibility assays performed during the workshop

The expert consultant in microbiology from Australia is committed to work with public health and academic institutions in Aceh to strengthen microbiology laboratory services.

Interpreting the results of antimicrobial susceptibility tests. From left: Ms. Novita Elsa (Zeinol Abidin hospital laboratory Banda Aceh), Ms. Darmi (Meulaboh District hospital, Meulaboh) and Mr. Bapak Sabri (Provincial public health laboratory, Banda Aceh)

Won’t you join the PAHEF-ASM partnership by sending a generous gift to ensure that rebuilding efforts for microbiology laboratories in tsunami-affected areas continue?

Pictures source: Final Report: Capacity Building of Microbiology Laboratories in Aceh Province, Indonesia (May 31, 2007. WHO office in Lyon)

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