ETHIOPIA – The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have launched a new collaboration to strengthen community resilience and response to public health emergencies at community level.

The two institutions have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ramp up pandemic response, including testing support to countries; community mobilization; advocacy and scaling up of contact tracing. In addition to COVID-19, the collaboration includes other areas of public health.

Africa CDC and IFRC will strengthen investments in locally-led action while working with governments to ensure they intensify efforts to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, Africa CDC and IFRC will scale up advocacy against vaccine wastage.

This new initiative comes at a time Africa continues to face major vaccine shortages, amid a high level of community transmission in countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Africa is facing a double-edged challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with health response gaps, and also trying to ensure that the continent prepares efficiently for future pandemics, using lessons from current challenges,” John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said.

Africa CDC has been implementing various public health responses to control COVID-19. These include the engagement of community health workers in risk communication and community sensitization; surveillance activities for early case identification; contact tracing and in facilitating referrals for testing and continuum of care.

However, the third wave of COVID-19 infections in Africa has stabilised with 248,000 cases reported in the last week, the World Health Organization said, while vaccines administered over the same period tripled to 13 million compared to the previous week.

Even as efforts to redeem the continent from pandemic shackles continues, several regions have reported major economic set backs due to COVID-19.

For instance, East Africa’s tourism sector lost more than US$4.8 billion and 2 million jobs in 2020 amid COVID-19 curbs, according to a recently released report.

The tourism sector contributes about 10% to East Africa Community (EAC) partner states’ gross domestic product (GDP) and accounts for 17% of export earnings and about 7% in terms of jobs, according to official data

The report by the East African Business Council (EABC), a bloc of private businesspeople in the region, showed that 4.2 million foreign tourists were not able to travel to their preferred East Africa Community destinations.

Ridded with uncertainty, the impact was felt across affiliated industries and other sectors of the economy.

It is estimated that tourism jobs in the region dropped from about 4.1 million to 2.2 million,” said EABC chief executive officer John Bosco Kalisa.

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