GOARN was established in 2000 as a global network that can contribute resources to international disease outbreak responses and has since grown to 270 technical institutions and networks partners for public health emergency preparedness and response. EMPHNET, which serves as the network’s hub in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, became a GOARN member in 2012, and has been providing support for outbreak detection, investigation, and response efforts to affected countries.
GOARN’s activities are overseen by its Steering Committee (SCOM), which consists of 21 partner institutions, functioning as a representative body responsible. EMPHNET has been a member of SCOM since 2013 and in 2022 EMPHNET’s Director Dr. Mohannad Al Nsour became the SCOM’s Deputy Chair.
Last month, EMPHNET hosted the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network’s (GOARN) strategy implementation workshop and its 33rd Steering Committee (SCOM) meeting. The workshop was attended by GOARN members and international representatives to discuss the network’s recently launched strategy 2022-2026, which aims to apply a community-centered approach, renew commitment to the global public health emergency workforce, create solutions for better responses, and promote collaborative response.
On the sidelines of these two events, we spoke to GOARN’s members on their respective roles and EMPHNET’s in the network:
The University of Nebraska Medical Center is a keen supporter of GOARN for deployments, training, and strategic planning for the future of global health security. These activities align with our university's central role in the United States for treatment, isolation, and quarantine of persons infected with high-hazard pathogens and public health education and research. EMPHNET will be a critical partner of GOARN as the global community prioritizes national preparedness efforts and training of a global health emergency corp.
Professor Ali Khan, MD MPH Dean and Professor, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC)
The Agency’s mission statement is ‘to promote and protect the health of Canadians through leadership, partnership, innovation, and action in public health. We all live in an interconnected world in which infectious diseases don’t respect borders, we all need to collaborate and support each other in the management of serious infectious disease outbreaks, which can easily spread beyond their initial origin to become global health emergencies.
The public health ecosystem is complex, and it will be important for GOARN as a ‘network of networks’ to continue to make and strengthen linkages and collaborative efforts between partners in order to most effectively and efficiently detect and manage serious infectious disease outbreaks and other global health emergencies.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada
Our active role in GOARN underlines RKIs strong commitment to a global outbreak response workforce. EMPHNET holds strong workforce capacities for emergency response both in the region and globally. GOARN can act as an interface between EMPHNET and other GOARN partners in the field of preparedness and response for mutual benefits.
Dr. Andreas Jansen, Head of the Federal Information Center for International Health Protection Director WHO Collaborating Center for GOARN Robert Koch Institute (RKI)
UK-PHRST has a triple mandate of infectious diseases outbreak response, operational research and capacity strengthening and so much of the work we do, and our own strategy is aligned with that of GOARN and other GOARN partners. GOARN is a good strategic fit for my organization and a key partner in facilitating the deployment of our expertise. Partners such as EMPHNET, who help inform and co-ordinate what a contextually appropriate response in the region should look like – drawing on their regional knowledge and technical expertise and bringing together others in their region and advocating for the network within their area.
Dr. Edmund Newman, Director of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST) and GOARN SCOM Member representing the UK Health Security Agency
I coordinate partnerships on health emergencies such as GOARN which aims to provide support to countries in alert and response to disease outbreaks. EMPHNET will have more engagement in alert and response activities, more effective engagement in deployment, and more engagement in bringing FETPs and GOARN partners together in addition to promoting regional context and work at the global level.
Dr. Wasiq Khan, Team Lead
WHO Health Emergencies Program in Amman
As a Regional GOARN Focal Point member of the GOARN Steering Committee, my role is to strengthen GOARN’s presence and its activities across the main areas of GOARN work in 53 countries of our region. GOARN is a key part of the Global and Regional WHO Health Emergency Workforce as well as an integral part of the WHO preparedness and response mechanisms for infectious disease outbreaks and beyond.
Strengthening national capacities and subregional networks of partners are contributing to the establishment of strong and resilient preparedness and response mechanisms at the regional level. Cascading this approach at the interregional level will support improving global response mechanisms through creating enabling environment across regions and Member States. Cross-regional work with GOARN partners such as EMPHNET will contribute to knowledge generation through the implementation of operational research activities and systematic collection and analysis of lessons learned in emergencies. I’m confident that collaboration with EMPHNET will have a strong positive impact on knowledge transfer through the implementation of the relevant training programs and expanding the community of GOARN practice.
Dr. Oleg Storozhenko, Operational Partnerships Officer at the Health Emergencies Program of the WHO Regional Office for Europe
The ECDC is getting more engaged in rapid response work and response activities in countries we strengthened, but also at the same time supporting preparedness efforts. In order to be closely involved in global activities, GOARN is a very good partner, and we very much contribute to GOARN’s work.
One of the big assets of GOARN is that it brings together so many institutions, and GOARN’s Steering Committee members represent many institutions at the global level. As an institution working globally, it is very important for ECDC to get to know many stakeholders and become familiar with their capacities and discuss mechanisms for joining efforts in certain regions, and certain countries.
Thomas Hofmann, Head of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
I’m the focal point for GOARN at the moment and representing our organization, which is IOM. IOM is a member of GOARN and the chairing committee. It works closely as a GOARN partner and we do a lot of information sharing and technical support to GOARN and GOARN members. We also do some deployment. We respond by supporting deployment as well. We coordinate with GOARN and GOARN partners as well.
The key opportunities that we have also discussed during this meeting, one of them is quite directed to me and our organization and I think is something we can build on is to support and strengthen the capacities of GOARN partners, and how to utilize the existing resources when it comes to capacity building. The second one is in terms of preparedness.
We can work together to support preparedness. The third one is health advocacy, as EMPHNET has good connections in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean Region, which is quite a plus because EMPHNET works closely with the member states. And if IOM works with EMPHNET and GOARN, we will be able to improve our response. The last one is directing limitations of activities. As IOM is the only UN organization that has a direct response in activities, direct to the beneficiaries. So, collaboration will help us develop and make sure there is efficiency in regional beneficiaries.
Dr. Andrew Mbala, IOM East and Horn of Africa regional coordinator for EVD
Since becoming a GOARN member, EMPHNET capitalized on its strong presence in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to contribute to the global response to major emergencies. EMPHNET deployed public health professionals from its network into several different countries in support of disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies, and it also contributed its technical expertise to the network.