The African Union Commission (AUC) in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), are set to launch five regional Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) starting this year, in a bid to detect and immediately respond to imminent disease outbreaks on the continent.
A statement released by WHO on Monday said the move aims at building not only capacity but also emergence efforts to counter disease outbreaks such as Ebola.
“The African CDC will provide a strong platform for technical coordination, ultimately strengthening public health systems, preparedness, surveillance and interventions across the continent,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
According to the statement, AUC and WHO are currently in the process of designation of these collaborating Centres, that will work closely with respective governments.
“Despite recent improvements, the readiness of the African Region to deal with health threats, outbreaks of communicable diseases and emergencies due to other hazards is profoundly in need of additional investment and strengthening,” added Dr Moeti.
AUC and WHO are also expected to give technical assistance to the five AUC geographical regions, to help respective countries build structures.
According to officials, the African CDC will focus more on event based surveillance (EBS), a mechanism that rapidly captures, organises and reports information about events that are a potential risk to public health.
To implement the EBS, the African CDC will benefit from the already existing Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC), which will serve as a central place for coordination of responses from all public health events that occur in the region.
WHO emphasises that trans-border, trans-national and inter-continental cooperation should remain a high priority if such a project is to be successful.
“We are yet to properly understand how this will be implemented, otherwise introduction of an epidemic prevention mechanism on this continent is welcome any time,” said Nathan Mugume, the head of the communication division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
Henry Mutabazi, an infectious diseases specialist with Medplus clinic, Remera, expressed optimism that such centres will not only offer training in spheres like emergency response but also leadership.
“Such centres are usually armed with reference laboratories, so disease outbreak surveillance is usually easy,” he said.