Afghanistan Field Epidemiology Training Program Celebrates the Graduation of its First Cohort
Afghanistan Field Epidemiology Training Program (AFETP) celebrated the graduation of its first cohort on Wednesday, November 11, 2020, in Kabul. The cohort comprises thirty AFETP graduates who have expanded their knowledge in multiple areas of field epidemiology including outbreak investigation, emergency response, surveillance, and biosafety and biosecurity, with special focus . Their one-year training included fieldwork and the completion of research projects.
The ceremony was attended by senior health officials from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) of Afghanistan, the Afghanistan National Public Health Institute (ANPHI), CDC, GHD|EMPHNET as well as current FETP residents and mentors.
In a speech he gave during the ceremony, the current Director of ANPHI, Dr. Noor Shah Kamawal gave a brief introduction about the AFETP and ANPHI. He expressed his hopes in seeing the AFETP evolve into a fully-fledged MSc program. From her end, AFETP graduate, Dr. Roqia Asar spoke about the significance of this day to her and her colleagues, further adding that the attendees have given the graduates positive energy. She explained that despite the current challenges faced in their country, the graduates strived to complete their graduation requirements and that they are all committed to elevating the quality of this program further. She mentioned that they are all fortunate to have had the program offered in their language. AFETP graduate, Dr. Jan Mohd Sahibzada added that the program has enriched their knowledge and he concluded his speech by stating that the graduates promise to practically implement what they have learned.From his end, CDC Representative, Dr. Abdul Qahar Momand stated that this program and its graduates are a long-term investment for Afghanistan. He explained that before the program’s launch, Afghanistan only had the Tajik Afghan joint program, but now this current program stands as living proof that the people of Afghanistan are capable of having their own effective input on public health systems within their countries. He also added that it is CDC’s commitment to keeping the program running.
In his speech, Executive Director, GHD|EMPHNET, Dr. Mohannad Al Nsour stated that he is filled with pride to see graduates of AFETP celebrate their graduation. He added that the efforts exerted by the graduates have been witnessed through their invaluable contributions to their country’s response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, he thanked Afghanistan’s MoPH for its contribution to the program’s success and the ANPHI for hosting the program, and he concluded his speech by reiterating that GHD|EMPHNET is always committed to providing support for the program and its needs.
From his end, the Minister of Public Health (MoPH), H.E. Dr. Ahmad Jawad Osmani highlighted the importance of FETPs and how proud he is of this program in Afghanistan. He added that he is hopeful that the graduates gained not only knowledge but also the skills and attitudes needed to succeed in their future careers. He ended his speech by saying that FETP graduates will help in the process of evidence-based decision making.
Deputy Minister of Policy and Planning at the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health and former AFETP Director, Prof. Bashir Noormal stated that in 2009, Afghanistan only had two graduates from Pakistan, and 13 graduates from the regional Tajik Afghan joint program in Tajikistan. But now, Afghanistan has 30 graduates in one cohort. He then went on to address the graduates and say, “Although it is an intermediate FETP, with your hard efforts, you can compete with other Advanced FETP programs.”
Furthermore, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Dr. Mohammad Khakerah Rashidi talked about the importance of practical work and field experience. He added that FETPs set the foundation for a more pragmatic program that strengthens public health expertise with high-quality instruction, qualified Afghan cadre, and that this program serves to strengthen the capacity of research and researchers. He explained that with 250 words in an abstract, graduates can change public health around the world.
MoPH/HIS General Director, Dr. Sayed Ataullah Saeedzai also made a speech where he explained that Afghanistan needs one program for every 100,000 epidemiologists. Thus, the program needs to keep running for the coming years. He concluded by saying that there are still some issues in the analysis of data and that a lot is expected from the graduates in the areas of monitoring and evaluation.
The ceremony also saw speeches from mentors and current students, where they highlighted the need to have an FETP, as Afghanistan has many public health issues. They also added that Msc programs are theoretical, however, FETPs are more practical, and the program has helped them analyze data more methodologically and scientifically and come up with academic reports and papers. This graduation ceremony is a milestone for AFETP, especially considering the current challenges that Afghanistan is facing.