Boosting infectious substance shipping capacities in Yemen

In March 2022, Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population and WHO organized an Infectious Substance Shippers Training (ISST) course to strengthen laboratory capacities across the country to ensure safe, quick and efficient transportation of clinical specimens and virus samples.

Yemen is a country gripped by crises, whose people continue to be affected by recurring epidemics of emerging and re-emerging pathogens. Few laboratories in the country have the capacity to accurately diagnose highly infectious diseases, including influenza. Instead, they ship clinical specimens and isolated viruses to WHO Collaborating Centres for advanced antigenic and genetic analysis.

Having a robust and reliable transport system that adheres to international guidelines and regulations for packaging and shipping ensures that samples are sent safely and efficiently, and that specimen integrity is maintained, which reduces the risk of misdiagnosis. In early 2022, to fill previously identified gaps in Yemen’s laboratory transport system for infectious agents, WHO and the Ministry of Public Health and Population organized a two-day ISST workshop for laboratory technicians responsible for shipping samples.

The workshop aimed to strengthen laboratory sample management in regional and national laboratories across the country and to produce a local pool of certified overseas shippers for infectious substances. In total, 25 people attended the workshop. Participants came from each governorate and included a mix of laboratory, surveillance and logistics staff, who are all involved in shipping infectious material.

The workshop covered international transport regulations for infectious substances from laboratories, emphasizing the categorization of infectious substances and on the requirements for their packaging, labelling, documentation and refrigeration. All participants who passed the final test received a certificate that is recognized by international air transport authorities and is valid for two years.

After the training, WHO consulted local couriers, including DHL, Aramex and UNHAS, on the key obstacles to shipping infectious substances and engaged them as partners in improving the laboratory transport system. As a result of its training and consultation efforts, Yemen now has a pool of certified shippers and reliable couriers to transport infectious substances between laboratories within the country and to reference laboratories overseas.

The WHO and Yemeni Ministry of Health , with support from the Global Influenza Programme, are now planning to ship the first influenza samples to a WHO Collaborating Centre.

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