NAIROBI, Kenya – As part of U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar’s (R-IN) Africa mission, he visited biological research laboratories in Kenya’s capital city today.
Lugar led a Department of Defense delegation to inspect three labs used to diagnose and research dangerous viruses and bacteria, such as Ebola, Anthrax, Rift Valley Fever, and Brucellosis (information about diseases below). With disease prevalent in the natural environment, the facilities inspected by Lugar were scientifically inadequate to meet the need for quick and comprehensive diagnostics and securely inadequate compared to U.S. standards. Given the pathogens housed at these facilities, the security should rival a maximum security prison.
“The United States is fortunate to have countries actively seeking our cooperation to work with them to secure these threats,” said Lugar, the Ranking Member and former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “These pathogens can be made into horrible weapons more simply than any dealing with chemical or nuclear devices. Just one of the deadly viruses I witnessed today could, if in the wrong hands, cause death and economic chaos.”
One of the labs witnessed by Lugar is situated immediately next to Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi and known terrorist recruiting grounds. The windows are broken and a short concrete wall topped with barbed are all that prevent individuals from hopping the fence to steal Anthrax, Ebola or other potentially deadly biological agents. (See photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatorlugar/5169776945/in/set-72157625186729047/.)
“The work that has been performed at these labs is invaluable and the world is better off for it. Without this research we would be even further behind the curve on potential outbreaks and new strains of deadly diseases like Ebola and Anthrax,” Lugar said. “The threat is very geographically focused because in one instance the population of the slum is literally against the security wall of the laboratory.”
Lugar also commended the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya officials working with their Kenyan counterparts on important public health programs.
Photos available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatorlugar/sets/72157625186729047/. Search for Twitter updates from the trip using #NunnLugar or visit Lugar’s Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/senatorlugar.
With close proximity to countries with burgeoning populations and lack of infrastructure (common causes of internal unrest) like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, it is crucial to work with willing partners in the region to ensure the twin goals of security and health are met.
Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) developed the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program in late 1991 to secure and destroy nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the republics of the former Soviet Union. “We’ve discovered through Nunn-Lugar that Soviet scientists used pathogens from Africa to make biological weapons during the Cold War,” Lugar said. “Those weapons are being destroyed. Now we have to secure their sources.”
Through Lugar’s foresight in successfully winning expansion of the Nunn-Lugar program in 2003, funds are available to secure these deadly pathogens in Kenya before they could reach the shores of America.
Read more about Lugar’s Africa mission at http://lugar.senate.gov/nunnlugar/africa/.