Building Field Epidemiology Capacities
This collaboration started with supporting the establishment of the Iraq Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) back in 2010 and with facilitating training activities for its residents and graduates. Since then, the Iraq FETP graduated six cohorts who are now members of the national public health workforce and whose competencies in public health surveillance, biostatistics, and epidemiology of priority diseases are needed to strengthen the health system in Iraq. To enhance epidemiological competencies of other public health professionals, the Ministry of Health (MOH) collaborated with GHD|EMPHNET in establishing the basic FETP modality, the Public Health Empowerment Program (PHEP). Launched in 2017, PHEP is a three-month training program which focuses on the basics of field epidemiology and outbreak response. Between 2017 and 2019, four PHEP cohorts were completed. In 2021, the Ministry launched the intermediate, one-year Iraq FETP to offer more in-depth training for public health professionals in outbreak investigation and response.
Strengthening Routine Immunization
GHD|EMPHNET’s growing collaboration with Iraq encompassed other priority areas, particularly strengthening routine immunization (RI) through a multi-prong approach to support country efforts to reach immunization coverage targets through strengthening the EPI and increasing demand for immunization. Major contributions under this collaboration were
- Implementing training activities in RI microplanning, RI supportive supervision and Acute Flaccid Paralysis / vaccine preventable diseases surveillance
- Developing Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Communications Strategy
- Implementing the Appreciative Inquiry, an innovative approach that engaged communities toward achieving full immunization for children
- Utilizing polio program assets to reach the targets for measles/rubella elimination and to strengthen RI
- Supporting RI in Practice training for provincial and district level EPI staff
- Introducing a web-based Vaccination Supplies Stock Management Application
- Conducting a Cold-Chain Equipment Inventory Assessment
- Conducting a comprehensive Effective Vaccine Management Two assessment and the development of comprehensive Improvement Plan
Enhancing Emergency Preparedness and Response
To strengthen the country’s emergency preparedness and response- in line with the International Health Regulations (2005)- the MOH and GHD|EMPHNET, in collaboration with national and international stakeholders, developed a detailed action plan for building the country’s capacity in rapid response teams (RRT) training, starting with the highest priority geographical areas. In line with this plan, GHD|EMPHNET supported RRT training workshops at the provincial level.
For the Arba’een Mass Gathering, one of the largest mass gathering worldwide, GHD|EMPHNET supported the MOH in conducting real-time surveillance during the event in 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2021 with the purpose of contributing to early detection, prevention, and control of numerous health threats associated with this large-scale event.
As of July 2020, GHD|EMPHNET in collaboration with the MOH started preparation to support public health emergency response efforts in Iraq with focus on the enhancing the country’s surveillance system.
Strengthening Infectious Disease Surveillance
GHD|EMPHNET, the MOH, and the Ministry of Agriculture also worked towards achieving stronger control, diagnosis, and prevention of infectious diseases. Joint efforts have been exerted toward strengthening the surveillance, diagnosis, and control of brucellosis in various parts of the country. In addition, GHD|EMPHNET worked with the MOH to study the surveillance of hospital-based Meningitis in the country in order to provide policy makers with evidence-based data to be used for controlling the disease whose incidence in Iraq is relatively high compared to neighboring countries. GHD|EMPHNET also worked closely with Ministry of Higher Education and the MOH to develop training materials on biosafety and biosecurity topics for students in universities that have functioning laboratories with a multipurpose use for a multidisciplinary team.
Supporting Biological Threat Reduction
In April 2020, GHD|EMPHNET initiated work to support building the capacity of the MOH in biomedical waste containment with a focus on newly liberated areas such as Anbar, Mosul, and Ninewa. Efforts are concentrated on building the capacities of the Iraqi laboratory staff through training in treating, securing, and safely disposing biomedical waste-guided by an assessment conducted to inform training development on infectious waste management and best laboratory practices.
Continuing a Decade-Long Partnership
Based on a partnership agreement signed in 2019 with the MOH, GHD|EMPHNET is institutionalizing collaboration with the ministry in capacity building, disease prevention and control, emergency response, biosecurity, biosafety, IHR, and immunization. Also in 2019, GHD|EMPHNET opened its office in Iraq to expand technical and logistic support to the country.