ZAMBIA – The Ministers of Health of the African Union (AU) Member States in the Southern Region have called for the operationalization of the Lusaka Call-to-Action to strengthen Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOCs) in the continent.

According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the communique was delivered at the High-level Meeting of Health Ministers of the AU Southern Region Member States on 10th September 2022 in Livingstone, Zambia.

A Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) is a critical element for coordinating critical life-saving data, information and resources that help the Member States to prepare better for and respond effectively and efficiently to public health emergencies,” Africa CDC said.

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 commit to establishing or strengthening functional PHEOCs in each AU Member State.

The agency announced that the health ministers were concerned about the increasing number of public health events and recurrent epidemics including the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent along with the enormous socio-economic impact.

The ministers cautioned about the high burden of epidemics and other emergency events in the African Region as well as the imminent risks of emerging and re-emerging diseases.

They also expressed concerns over the challenges in coordinating and managing resources, information and data to prepare for and respond to multiple disease outbreaks and other emergency events on the continent.

Subsequently, African health ministers have called upon the AU Member States in the Southern Region to establish and strengthen PHEOCs with legal mandates, equipped centers with the right infrastructure, and dedicated, well-trained human resources within the next 2 years.

Countries were also urged to provide national PHEOCs with sustainable financing for effective operations in responding to public health emergencies.

Support the establishment of a regional PHEOC Technical Working group (TWG) that sets the priorities and tracks the progress of PHEOC implementation in the region, and include PHEOCs as a standing agenda item in the Regional Steering Committee meetings,” the agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Africa CDC has been urged to establish and facilitate a regional PHEOC TWG to set regional priorities and track the progress of PHEOC implementation in the region.

The agency was also urged to establish a continental public health emergency management training program to meet the growing needs of well-trained human resources for PHEOCs.

In addition, the leaders acknowledged the relevant existing frameworks, protocols, strategies and agreements while welcoming the Lusaka Call-to-Action to strengthen Public Health Emergency Operations Centres in Africa.

They further lauded the close collaborations and the efforts being made by the Africa CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other partners to strengthen and establish PHEOCs.

Further call upon WHO, other partners and stakeholders in emergency preparedness and response to closely coordinate and collaborate with Africa CDC, and provide the necessary support to the Regional PHEOC TWG,” the agency highlighted.

Furthermore, the partners were encouraged to support AU Member States to fast-track implementation of the Lusaka Call to Action as well as to mobilize resources and experts necessary to accelerate the implementation of the national PHEOC roadmaps.

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