Health Research Ethics under review as CAMBIN Strengthens capacity of Cameroon and Chad’s NECs

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

CAMBIN and National Ethics Cimmittees of Cameroon and Chad pose for a picture after the conclusion of the ceremony on October 21 in Yaounde

The Cameroon Bioethics Initiative (CAMBIN) has strengthened the capacity of National Ethics Committee members of Cameroon and Chad on health research ethics, and standard operating procedures amongst others, with the National Ethics Committee of Chad visiting Cameroon to discuss a collaboration plan with the National Ethics Committee of Cameroon.

CAMBIN which has the objective of fostering the development of bioethics in Africa, with a particular focus on ethics in biomedical research and strives for their achievement, the capacity building and experience sharing workshop between the National Ethics Committees of Cameroon and Chad was organized under the SNECFA project. It ran from Monday, October 17 to Friday, October 21, 2022, at the ST Muna Foundation in Yaounde.

During the five-day workshop, CNERSH was introduced to members of CNBT and vice versa, strengthening the skills of CNERSH and CNBT members through experience sharing ad case studies; presenting and discussing the final version of the CNERSH and NCWB standard operating procedures and developing a roadmap for collaboration between the two countries and schedule follow-up on its implementation.

Dr Mbih Tosam Jerome, Coordinator of the SNECFA project.

The training which is part of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP2) programme, supported by the European Union sought to build capacity and share experiences between members of the National Ethics Committees (NECs) of Cameroon and Chad on health research ethics, standard operating procedures, and the plan for collaboration between the two committees.

“There were four fundamental principles; to create a platform where the members of the National Ethics Committees of Cameroon and Chad can meet and exchange ideas to be able to learn from each other. This first objective was attained because there were tense discussions and a realization that there are certain things that each committee has that the other does not have,” Dr Mbih Tosam Jerome, Coordinator of the SNECFA project.

“We had an opportunity to listen to the various aspects of the Standard Operating Procedures. We also had an objective to enhance the visibility of the National Ethics Committees of these two countries by permitting them to have the FWA registration which will help them to be visible around the globe… I can say with satisfaction that these objectives were obtained in our five days of discussions and exchanges.”

The SNECFA project (36 months project sponsored by EDCTP) seeks to strengthen the capacity of four National Ethics Committees (NECs) in Francophone West and Central Africa namely, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Niger, with a special focus on drafting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the review of research protocols during routine and emergencies through providing customized training programs tailored to the needs of each country; providing support for the registration or renewal of their FWA numbers; supporting the 4 NECs in writing or revising their SOPs for the review of research protocols during routine and emergencies and facilitating knowledge sharing and exchange between NECs (National Ethics Committees).

For the past year, workshops have been organized to strengthen the capacities of the National Ethics Committees. In 2021, workshops were held in Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Niger to enhance the capacity of the National Ethics Committees in Health Research Ethics. Another workshop followed in which the standard operating Procedures (SOPs) of these National Ethics Committees were revised to suit the standards set by the World Health Organization, WHO. This especially looked at the SOOPs in routine and emergencies.

Prof Tangwa Godfrey, Vice Chairperson of CAMBIN

Research ethics review is still a major challenge in Francophone African countries despite the rise in clinical and biomedical research in West and Central francophone Africa. “The challenges that the committees faced had to do with inadequate facilities to do their work properly. When it comes to the protocols that they reviewed, there are protocols that we need to be very vigilant and careful that our people that take part in these researches are not harmed,” Prof  Tangwa Godfrey, Vice Chairperson of CAMBIN told reporters.

“Both committees are in search of adequate resources to settle them to be able to do their work very well.  It was very important for the members to review the protocols being carried out in the domain of health which will appropriately help them. We are delighted from the part of CAMBIN that this work has gone on successfully.”

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