U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Supports Public Health Laboratories in Ethiopia to Bolster the COVID-19 Response

Addis Ababa
May 22, 2020

CDC Ethiopia has invested more than $64 million to build the capacity of Ethiopia’s laboratories and health facilities to strengthen the country’s public health infrastructure over the past two decades. Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) and CDC lab experts conducting a COVID-19 lab test at the EPHI Reference lab. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, CDC is working closely with the Federal Ministry of Health, Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), and other public health partners to ensure the people of Ethiopia have access to better diagnostic services to protect them from COVID-19 and help prevent the further spread of the virus. As part of this effort, CDC experts are working on the frontlines with EPHI leadership as part of the national emergency COVID-19 response team, providing support to improve and expand laboratory testing, epidemiology and surveillance, infection prevention and control, and planning.

Through these response efforts, CDC has embedded two senior laboratorians to provide direct hands-on technical assistance at the national COVID 19 testing laboratory. CDC’s direct support has helped the national laboratory to build its capacity to develop a national testing algorithm for COVID-19, conduct verification of multiple testing kits, and implement quality assurance activities during rapid expansion and decentralization of testing. CDC is also supporting the procurement of supplies for COVID-19 testing to maintain and expand capacity.

When asked to describe the partnership with CDC, Adamu Tayachew, Respiratory Viral Diseases Surveillance Response Case Team Lead at EPHI, said, “Our partnership and engagement with CDC is historic. CDC has been there since the establishment of this facility and together we have achieved many milestones throughout the years. CDC’s support has been instrumental in assisting the lab in the investigation of outbreaks of various viral pathogens such as influenza, yellow fever, chikungunya, and dengue, some of which had never been detected in Ethiopia before. In the COVID 19 response, the two CDC experts supporting us on the frontline have been extraordinary. Working eighteen hours a day has become the new normal for us since the outbreak, but I am humbled to see these folks working with us side by side during off-hours. They are bringing us global contexts which helps us build our capacity in verification of new testing materials, specimen collection, resource management, workflow planning, and workforce management.”

Just three months ago, Ethiopia had to send its COVID-19 samples abroad. Now the country is typically testing more than 4000 specimens a day and is planning to open more laboratories in Addis Ababa and in various regional states that are capable of conducting routine COVID-19 testing. This is a critical step in being prepared given the importance of early detection and response during outbreaks of pandemic potential like COVID-19.

“The long-standing successful partnership between the U.S. Government and the Government of Ethiopia has helped to strengthen public health systems to combat both existing and emerging 21st century health threats like the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said CDC Ethiopia Country Director Dr. Christine Ross. “While we work diligently to address the remaining gaps, it’s encouraging to see the Government of Ethiopia capitalizing on these CDC investments, particularly in public health laboratories across the regions, to intensify its public health response to the COVID-19 threat.”


Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) and CDC lab experts conducting a COVID-19 lab test at the EPHI Reference lab.