On June 8, 2020, Speak Up Africa kicked off its Virtual Bridges series with an insightful conversation with Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Mr. Paulo Gomes, Co-Chair of the Afro-Champions Initiative and Board Member of the Africa COVID-19 Response Fund.
Through these Virtual Bridges, which regroup media outlets from across the continent, we provide a platform for policy makers and implementers to discuss immediate impacts of the pandemic on sanitation and public health in Africa.
- 54 African States (out of 55) have reported 159 000 cases of COVID-19 and 5000 deaths have been reported across the continent.
- The African Union COVID-19 Response Fund was established by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat on 26 March 2020, with the aim of strengthening the continental response to COVID-19 and mitigate its socio economic and humanitarian impact on African populations.
- The joint continental response strategy that followed led to the establishment of a taskforce to support countries to develop capacity in the areas of diagnostics, surveillance, crisis communication, enhanced airport screening, case management and science research.
Below are some of the key takeaways from the conversation:
- The continental strategy is underpinned by the critical need for Africans to coordinate, cooperate, collaborate and communicate. This is precisely what the technical platform, Taskforce on Coronavirus Preparedness and Response (AFTCOR), provides in terms of coordination across the continent.
- About 1.2 billion people live in Africa today and it is important for Africa to test at very least 1% of the population. Yet, at the moment, only 2.7 million tests have been conducted in Africa. In order to get ahead of the curve, the African Union and. Africa CDC lead the initiative called “The partnership to accelerate COVID testing”, which essentially aims at scaling up testing, tracing of contacts to facilitate case management.
- We need to reimagine a new public health order in Africa. The fight against COVID-19 in Africa has to be embedded in human rights. It is every African’s responsibility to engage and contribute to the response. Africa must become self-reliant to fight the disease, with African money and African expertise. The urgency of the situation very much demands for the continent to get organized quickly in a coordinated approach and most importantly, speak with one voice.
- To fight COVID-19, the continental responses asks A little Change for Change! Indeed, the African Union COVID-19 Response Fund aims to raise resources to strengthen the continental response to COVID-19 by e.g. supporting pool procurement of diagnostics and other medical commodities by Africa CDC for distribution to the Member States and mitigating the pandemic’s socio economic and humanitarian impact on African populations. Each and every one of us can contribute to the Fund! No amount is too small.
- How the money will be spent?
- Mitigate the social, economic and humanitarian impact of COVID-19 in all African countries.The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the socio-economic advancements made by Africa in the last 30 years as the pandemic proves to be more severe on the socio-economic well-being of populations in Africa. Therefore, money raised through the Fund will be used to implement measures to mitigate the socio-economic and humanitarian impact of COVID-19 in Africa.
- Boost the capacity of the Africa CDC to support response to public health emergencies across the continent.Africa CDC was created to support efforts by Member States to prepare for and respond to public health threats across the continent. Its establishment followed the hard lessons from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, which caused the loss of thousands of lives and had a heavy toll on the socio-economic well-being of individuals and groups in Africa. Part of this fund will be used to boost the capacity of Africa CDC to fully play its role as a continental public health institution as stated in its statute.
- Support the procurement and distribution of essential COVID-19 medical equipment and supplies and mobilize rapid response by Member States.Some of the 55 African Union Member States have been having difficulties in procuring medical equipment and supplies needed to boost response to the pandemic. This Fund will support pool procurement of diagnostics and other medical commodities by Africa CDC for distribution to the Member States, and to support the deployment of one million community workers and community healthcare workers to support contact tracing.
- What can the media do to support the initiative?
- Invite all Africans to contribute to the Fund.
- Call for strong collaboration between countries, private sector companies, grass root initiatives among others.
- Spread the right information about COVID-19 and ensure everyone takes appropriate prevention measures.
- Hold decision-makers accountable. It is crucial that national responses hit the right balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods. Relaxing measures need to be embedded in science and tangible facts to protect African people.
In a nutshell, the battle against COVID-10 is a shared responsibility. A strong commitment to public health and to fighting COVID-19 will yield an impressive investment in our economies and sustainable development. We need a change for change! Africa CDC and Afro-champions urge Africans to change the narrative and put our money where our mouth is. This is really about reinforcing the backbone of an essential institution (Africa CDC) and prepare for other challenges coming our way.
Stay tuned for our next Virtual Bridges Conversation!
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