Even before the outbreak of Ebola in west Africa, the devastating impact of highly infectious diseases was clear, as was the speed with which pathogens can spread to engulf entire regions. To counter this trend, Germany is working with many partner countries on a large number of projects. One such project is the Rapid Response Team in Tunisia.
Rapid Response Team in action
September 2018 at the Tunisian military base El Aouina: the Tunisian mobile lab is completing a training exercise. In a real-world situation, the team of experts is confronted with a fictitious outbreak of disease. The aim is to safely diagnose the relevant dangerous pathogen. Local hospitals are also being drilled for emergencies. The team of experts helps them react to the simulated outbreak.
Practice makes perfect
Back in early 2017, the Tunisian Rapid Response Team was trained in how to deal with biological threats by German experts from the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (IMB) with operative support provided by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
In November 2017, Germany presented the Tunisian medical corps with a hi-tech mobile lab. If there is a danger from highly infectious pathogens, the Tunisian authorities are able to respond rapidly and efficiently. Regular exercises with realistic conditions play an important part in ensuring the civil-military Rapid Response Team is constantly ready for deployment.
Hand in hand for more biosecurity
Referring to the training exercise, Carsten Meyer-Wiefhausen, Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy in Tunis, emphasised the importance of tried-and-tested German-Tunisian cooperation in the field of biosecurity: “It is crucial to work closely with reliable partners at national and international level. A coordinated approach is the key to successfully overcoming biological threats.”
General Mustapha Ferjani confirmed that this approach is the way forward as part of the existing partnership. He described the exercise as the “culmination of two years of intensive work by Tunisian and German partners in the field of biosecurity”.
German engagement to strengthen biosecurity structures in partner countries
The biosecurity project in Tunisia is part of a comprehensive effort to strengthen biosecurity structures in partner countries as part of the German Government’s Enable and Enhance Initiative.
The Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Defence are closely coordinating their activities within this initiative. The aim is always to enable selected partners to take even more responsibility in response to national and regional threats.
Tunisia is also a priority country in the German Biosecurity Programme. This programme was launched by the Federal Foreign Office in 2013 and is currently active in 12 countries and with two cross-regional projects. It is part of the Federal Government’s preventive security policy and of German engagement in the G7 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The programme activities help to reduce biological risks and the related danger of proliferation.