U.S. Government Expands Infectious Disease Testing

A new project on infectious diseases strengthens public health diagnosis and surveillance and builds the capacity of local laboratories.

The U.S. Government, through the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Infectious Disease Detection and Surveillance (IDDS) project, is helping Madagascar fight COVID-19 and other infectious diseases through the donation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing equipment to the PZaGa public laboratory at Mahajanga Hospital in northwestern Madagascar.

“PCR testing is a fast and inexpensive method to test for infectious diseases and an important way to identify diseases that threaten public health.  Clearly, this is much needed as we seek to control the COVID-19 pandemic,” said USAID Health Office Director Sophia Brewer.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, the IDDS project has trained local laboratory staff on the proper use of PCR equipment and other tests for infectious diseases, including correct sampling methods and safe handling, storage, and transportation of specimens.  

In June, USAID’s IDDS project donated two new sterilization machines (or autoclaves), worth a total of more than $4,000, to two hospitals in Antananarivo.  Autoclaves kill pathogens, decontaminate materials, and ensure the safety of laboratory technicians at these facilities.  These donations support the IDDS project’s objective to improve Madagascar’s ability to identify and track disease outbreaks.  “Our goal is to help the Ministry of Public Health improve their monitoring and diagnostic system so that they have reliable data to inform decisions,” stated IDDS Country Director Dr. HerindrainyPerlinot.

IDDS is a five-year USAID-funded project that is strengthening public health diagnostic networks and surveillance systems to effectively detect and monitor outbreaks of infectious diseases in more than 20 countries in Africa and Asia, including Madagascar.  

This is the latest example of how the U.S. and Madagascar governments are like “mpirahalahy mianala” in preventing, identifying, and containing infectious disease outbreaks in Madagascar.  Through USAID, the U.S. Government has been a leading partner to Madagascar, standing side-by-side in responding to outbreaks of plague, measles, malaria, and COVID-19.  USAID also lent extensive support to the Ministry of Public Health’s recent national polio vaccination campaign.  In February 2021, USAID also donated a GeneXpert machine to the Ministry of Public Health, which provides COVID-19 diagnostic test results within 45 minutes.

Last year, USAID assistance to Madagascar totaled $133.5 million.  The U.S. Government is the largest single-country donor to Madagascar’s health sector, providing $74.5 million in 2020 alone to fund USAID’s health projects.  These projects reduce Madagascar’s maternal and child mortality, provide access to potable water and sanitation, protect communities from malaria, improve access to family planning, ensure a reliable supply chain of vital health care provisions and medications, and reinforce the national community health policy.