ETHIOPIA – African heads of state and government have elevated Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) status to an autonomous health agency of the African Union (AU).
The agency was given full powers to operate independently during the closing ceremony of the 35th AU assembly of heads of state and government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Africa CDC is a specialized technical institution of the AU that offers coordinated support to public health initiatives of member states and strengthens the capacity of their public health institutions to detect, prevent, control and respond effectively to disease threats.
It presently has the legal, institutional and operational freedom to serve as a channel to mobilize financing to build the necessary capabilities and strengthen national health systems across Africa.
It can also acquire vital continental assets for disease prevention and control as well as improve regional responsiveness during outbreaks like COVID-19.
The agency will train and build capacity throughout Africa to improve on the caliber of public health assets and personnel.
The agency was formerly classified within the African Union Commission (AUC) operating under the Commissioner for Social Affairs thus decisions would typically have to trudge through slower bureaucratic channels.
Africa CDC will be funded by the AU as an independent entity and its chief will be elevated to a position of a director-general who will be equitable to a commissioner.
The agency coordinated the African Union’s continental response strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of its key goals was to create a medical supplies platform acting as a one-stop shop for procurement of vital personal protective equipment by governments.
At the AU Summit 2022 , African leaders agreed on a historic decision to elevate AfricaCDC status to an autonomous health agency of the AU despite critics labeling the summit as “ a COVID-19 transmission event’.
As part of the strict COVID-19 preventive methods enrolled at the AU summit, an antigen test is mandatory for participants before accessing the AU headquarters compound in the Ethiopian capital.
“Strict COVID-19 prevention measures enrolled at the ongoing summit which is underway for the first time physically since the onset of the pandemic proves a game-changer in Africa’s COVID-19 fight,” observed Director of the AfricaCDC John Nkengasong.
During the first three days of the event, comprising the meetings of AU Executive Council and AU Assembly, the Africa CDC managed to conduct over 5,400 COVID-19 tests using temporary testing centers installed inside the AU premises.
“Around 25 positive COVID-19 cases were detected during the first three days of the summit with an overall positivity rate of around 0.6%,” confirmed John Nkengasong.
The assembly has paved way for the way such conferences and meetings will be organized in Africa where people actually follow public health measures very strictly
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