AFRICA— The Africa CDC reaffirmed its commitment to investing in and supporting professional community health workers (CHWs) by actively participating in the inaugural COP28 Health Day in the United Arab Emirates.

This event was hosted on the sidelines of the Reaching the Last Mile Forum.

By facilitating links between vulnerable populations and the healthcare system, assisting clients with care coordination and transitions, and enhancing the clinic’s and the community’s overall capacity to handle health issues, CHWs perform a critical role as frontline health workers.

During this event, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), Africa Frontline First, and the Global Fund (to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria) announced their enhanced and renewed collaborative support for community health workers, as stated by the Africa CDC.

Moreover, the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), USAID, and UNICEF were among the other partners disclosed.

This collaboration signifies a significant step in the right direction for improving healthcare in Africa and ensuring that CHWs have the resources they need to perform their roles effectively.

The meeting witnessed the attendance of H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, who emphasized that she had personally witnessed the devastating darkness that disease outbreaks can bring to a nation during her tenure, particularly as the president of Liberia.

Consequently, she committed to representing a significant advancement in the quest to inspire hope, save lives, and bring health to everyone.

She fought for the revitalizing light that community health workers can offer to a devastated country.

This commitment builds on the growing momentum for community health, with partners committing to collective and coordinated investments.

It also affirms governments’ leadership role in setting health priorities, including the Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund, the African Union’s commitment to recruit 2 million community health workers, the Africa CDC’s New Public Health Order, the Community Health Delivery Partnership, and the Monrovia Call to Action.

Furthermore, this announcement further encouraged a call to action for other partners to join the momentum in scaling community health programs, aligning with the Africa CDC Continental Community Health Coordination Mechanism (CCHCM).

Dr. Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa CDC, stated that strong community health systems in every community are essential to provide accessible, quality, and cost-effective prevention and treatment services, including in emergencies.

He highlighted that collective commitment to represent citizens’ health, well-being, and security welcomed the support of the partners and invited others to join this journey towards a healthier future for all.

The Global Fund, in particular, announced funding of US$900 million for the next three years, with 74% allocated to be invested in African countries.

This additional funding will complement the contributions of other partners supporting community health worker programs.

Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, emphasized that community health workers play a crucial role in enhancing prevention, detection, and response to outbreaks, as well as maintaining HIV, TB, and malaria services for rural and hard-to-reach populations.

He went on to say that this increased commitment to supporting the partners is key to continuing to build resilient and sustainable systems for health and saving lives.

Despite their critical role, CHW programs face challenges with a US$4.4 billion annual funding gap, and community health financing suffers from severe discoordination.

These programs often focus on specific diseases, leading to competing priorities and inefficient investments, ultimately resulting in under-supported systems.

This status quo undermines governments’ agendas and reinforces the lack of political prioritization and insufficient domestic resources for community health.

Africa CDC is taking the lead in conversations and efforts to secure commitment and accelerated mobilization of funding from all partners, aligning with the continental coordination mechanism for the institutionalization, integration, and sustainability of community health workforce programs.

The leadership of the Africa CDC and, indeed, the Africa Union Commission welcome this ground-breaking commitment at COP28 in Dubai.

They expressed their appreciation to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and the Chief Executive Officer of Reaching the Last Mile, along with all partners, for making this commitment.