ZAMBIA – The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has called for swift action on strengthening public health emergency operations in the wake of the increasing public health events and recurrent epidemics on the continent.
African leaders made the powerful joint call during the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU), also the 4th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting (MYCM) of the AU and the Regional Economic Communities (RECS), held in Lusaka, Zambia on 16th July 2022.
According to the Africa CDC, a Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) is a critical element for coordinating critical life-saving data, information and resources that help AU Member States to prepare better for and respond effectively and efficiently to public health emergencies.
A Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) is a physical location for the coordination of information and resources to support incident management activities. PHEOCs are also referred to as “operations centres”, “situation rooms” and “command centres”.
The Lusaka Call to Action urges all AU Member States and partners to recognize and prioritize PHEOCs as an important pillar in health emergency preparedness and response while encouraging Member States to make a commitment to establish or strengthen functional PHEOCs in each AU Member State.
“Prioritizing mobilization of resources is necessary for accelerated implementation of national PHEOCs roadmaps in line with Africa’s New Public Health Order,” Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
AU Member States, African Union Commission, Africa CDC, all partners and global leaders were urged to join efforts in accelerating the establishment and strengthening of national functional PHEOCs under Ministries of Health or National Public Health Institutes in all AU Member States by 2026.
The Call to Action emphasized on the need for concerted efforts to in ensuring that African Union Member States develop clear PHEOCs roadmaps and PHEOCs are entrusted with legal mandates as well as equipped with the right infrastructure, human and financial resources.
The Heads of State and Government and leaders of delegations expressed their deep concern about the increasing number of public health events and recurrent epidemics including the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent as well as the enormous socio-economic impact of these public health emergencies.
They stressed that it is the political mandate of ministries of health and National Public Health Institutes to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies while noting that disease threats, epidemics, public health emergencies and pandemics are a social, economic, and security threat for the continent.
The call to action follows the Heads of State and Government’s Declaration on 4th July 2017 on Accelerating Implementation of the International Health Regulations in Africa to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of diseases.
In addition, it is the duty of the ministries of health and National Public Health Institutes in Africa to establish strong resilient and adaptive health systems with effective coordination, collaboration and sharing of information and other resources.
The leaders observed that there is inadequate implementation of the International Health regulations (IHR) in Africa, warning that disease threats, epidemics, public health emergencies and pandemics pose a huge risk to the achievement of the continental aspiration, Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
“The African Union Member States are at different stages of establishment of national functional Public Health Emergency Operations Centres to fulfill the International Health Regulations (IHR) commitments,” the Africa CDC declared.
African leaders further advised African Union Commission and Africa CDC to put in place a continental mechanism and structure to coordinate the accelerated establishment and/or strengthening of PHEOCs in Africa and collaborate with all relevant stakeholders.
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