This warning from the United States, contained in a Ministry of Health document released last month, reveals ongoing efforts behind the scenes to secure pathogens stored at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).
The US government, through the Threat Reduction Agency, is accelerating the construction of a secure storage facility in Kemri.
The United States bears 90% of the cost of building a sample storage facility in Kemri, the equivalent of $ 6 million.
The Kenyan government should set up security and CCTV facilities for the installation at a cost of $ 500,000 plus an additional $ 400,000 for the operation of the security software for five years.
The document raises concerns about the dangers associated with pathogens found in health facilities and research centers and describes them as a serious threat to national stability.
“Kemri has multiple biological organisms and other materials that are stored in many laboratories (in refrigerators and frozen in nitrogen chambers) within the institute.
They represent a great threat to the community because organisms can accidentally, by design or by natural disaster, infiltrate the community and cause havoc.
Criminals or terrorists can also use them for their bad intentions. So we take this project seriously, “ says the Ministry of Health’s mid-term expenditure scoping document, which covers the period 2019-2022.
Attack with anthrax
In May 2016, police announced that they had foiled an anthrax attack by a terrorist group with ties to the Islamic State (IS).
A man, his wife and another woman were arrested during an operation that took place in different parts of the country.
In a statement issued at the time, security forces said the terrorist network was spreading across the country and beyond its borders, including Somalia, Libya and Syria.
Mohammed Abdi Ali, a medical trainee in a Kenyan hospital, was reportedly responsible for a “terrorist network … planning large scale attacks similar to the Westgate Mall” which killed 67 people in 2013 in Nairobi.
According to the statement, Mr. Ali’s network included medical experts who could help organize an anthrax attack.
His wife, Nuseiba Mohammed Haji, a student, was also arrested in Uganda, as was a friend, Fatuma Mohammed Hanshi.
The Ministry of Health report indicates that the storage facility is designed to reduce the chemical and biological threat to the country.
A biosecurity survey conducted in Kenya in 2015 found that the country’s laboratories store at least 16 dangerous pathogens.
Less than 50% of the laboratories have an inventory list, while two laboratories have reported that biohazardous agents have disappeared from their stores without trace.
A biological attack is the intentional spread of a pathogen against humans, plants or animals.
An attack on people could be used to spread disease, death, fear, disruption of society and economic damage.
An attack on plants and farm animals would mainly cause economic damage, loss of confidence in the food supply and possible loss of life.