Friday, April 03, 2020

Expanding Our Nation’s Lab Testing Capacity in the Era of Pandemics

By John A. Akec*

The Future Begins Now, is the name of an Ohio-based US organisation that offers scholarships to young people. This is an echo of what was attributed to Mahatma Gandhi  that: the future begins in the presence. This saying makes great sense and applies to many contexts. The future prosperity of nations and individuals depends on the type and quality of investments they commit their resources to (in form of time and money) at the present. That is why our new motto at the University of Juba is: “inventing the future, transforming society.” The motto is a constant reminder to us that universities worldwide, not just in our country, are there to assist their nations navigate their ways into a safer and prosperous harbors that are still unknown. 

With the current Coronavirus pandemic, nations with lab capability are assisting their governments face the challenge posed by covid-19 to their populations. South Korea, for example, is among the countries that has been praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its success in reducing community transmission of the virus through massive programme of testing, isolation, and tracking of the suspected cases. Thanks to South Korean past investment in its education system in the 1960s that has prepared their country to face up to the threats of covid-19 virus in 2020.  

The Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, has urged all countries to test, and treat every case of coronavirus. “No nation can fight coronavirus blind-folded,” he warned. This is one of the worst pandemics in living memory since the outbreak of Spanish flu in 1918. The Spanish flu that followed at the heel of the end of the First World War I (WWI) is reported to had infected 500 million and taking the lives of 50 million people worldwide, three times the number of deaths in the WWI. Hopefully, coronavirus will be contained before it reaches anything like Spanish influenza infection and death rates.

A report that was authored by epidemiologists from Imperial College and London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and published this week, warned that the pandemic could result in death of more than 250,000 people in the UK alone if serious measures are not taken to slow down the spread of coronavirus through the population. Amongst report’s recommendations included isolating people with cough and temperature at home for 14 days, quarantining of all members of families if one member shows the symptoms of the virus, social distancing through reduction of normal social contacts by three-quarters, social isolation of over 70s, and closure of schools and universities. 

As we go to press, there are 691,867 confirmed cases and 32,980 recorded deaths worldwide, which works out as 4.6 percent of confirmed cases. This virus is truly catastrophic and has stretched to the breaking point the capacity of even the well resourced of countries.

 Bill Gates has warned that the spread of the virus in Africa could be prove devastating. South Sudan is amongst a score of African countries that the WHO has categorised as lacking the capacity to test its population for coronavirus. This is shocking, but not surprising. We as a country had not done much to prepare our health system for minor epidemics, let alone the pandemics of covid-19 scale.

The University of Juba has joined the fight against COVID-19 pandemic by setting up a technical committees of experts and stakeholders on coronavirus that will make recommendations to University of Juba Community (students and staff), and the government Taskforce on COVID-19, based on emerging global understanding of  COVID-19 pandemic and the experiences gained elsewhere.

Mark Twain once said: “the secret of getting ahead is to get started.” And while we might not be best prepared as a country for the current coronavirus pandemic, we need not be caught up in the same position of unpreparedness in the future. And that is why we as University are planning to launch a School for Medical Laboratory Sciences in the academic year 2021/2022. We are doing this by partnering with Omdurman Ahlia University in Sudan to develop our curriculum and allow us to learn from their experience through staff and student exchange programme. Equally important, we have stepped up our efforts to expand our academic programmes into public health and nursing and other health allied sciences.

All the above is in line with our strategic goals of expanding quality higher education, transfer of know-how to key strategic sectors, and serving communities. In short, we want to invent the future and transform the society we live in by building our nation’s capacity to deliver quality medical services. So help us, O God.

*First appeared in Juvarsity, a Monthly News Bulletin of the University of Juba, Published by the Directorate of Planning, Innovation, and Quality Assurance. Vol 2 Issues No. 9, April 2020


  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Akam Goch Deng Yak, At 11:31 AM  

  • Truly Professor you're our Sun, May your light keep glowing and appealing to us to shine.
    So that we out light the darkness of imposed on by the circumstances our country has gone through.

    May God bless you
    May God bless University of Juba
    May God bless the Our Country.

    By Blogger Akam Goch Deng Yak, At 11:47 AM  

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