From 1 to 10 November, experts in Mali practised using a mobile lab as preparation for epidemics and biological attacks. The exercise using the lab donated by Germany was done in Koulikoro, a two hour drive from Bamako. German soldiers are deployed in Koulikoro for the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM). Building on the success of the German Biosecurity Programme in Mali since 2014, Germany is now to extend its activities in the sphere of biosecurity to include the Sahel countries Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad in the coming years.
Lab equipment and transport cases were at the ready when Benjamin Reiner, representing the German Embassy in Mali, and Bakary Diarra, Secretary General of the Malian Health Ministry, visited the training exercise. For two weeks, trainers from the Bundeswehr had been practising for an emergency with Malian lab experts, namely the outbreak of an extremely dangerous disease which spreads like wildfire.
Mobile lab for Ebola outbreak
As early as 2014, the Federal Foreign Office made available a mobile lab to the Malian Government during the Ebola crisis. It was developed at the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich and can be used for rapid identification of highly pathogenic biological agents. In 2014, the lab played a major role in containing the Ebola infections in the country. Since that time, experts in the Munich Institute have been working with the GIZ to train Malian scientists to use the lab so they are prepared for a potential epidemic.
Training exercise at Malian military base
A military base in Koulikoro, about two hours from the capital Bamako, was chosen this year to simulate the outbreak of an epidemic outside major cities. It is used by both the Malian military and the soldiers deployed for the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM). It was the experience gained during the Ebola crisis that sparked this cooperation between civilian and military spheres. Tried and tested cooperation between the Malian Health Ministry and the Malian armed forces is of major importance for averting danger.
Setting up a biosecurity network for the G5 Sahel states
Alongside representatives of the German Embassy and the Malian Health Ministry, the G5 Sahel states of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad had sent observers. Providing information about the training exercise, the German Embassy announced that the Federal Government’s biosecurity activities are going to be extended to include the other four members of the G5 Sahel Group from 2017. Cooperation between the countries is to improve protection from crossborder biological dangers – whether caused by natural outbreaks of disease or by the use of biological pathogens. As they set up this network, the G5 Sahel states are going to be assisted by German experts: In this project, the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH are continuing the successful cooperation they began in Mali. The two are working on the ground with the French Fondation Mérieux and the Malian Charles Mérieux Centre of Infectiology. The project will be financed in the coming years by the Federal Government’s empowerment initiative.