The African Union (AU) has launched an Africa-wide public health agency, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), which will help African Member States respond to public health emergencies.
The Friday launch underlined the importance of public health and its impact on national, social and economic development.
Because of this importance, the AU Assembly of Heads of State authorised an annual contribution from the overall AU operating budget for 2016 to safeguard Africa’s health.
The need for an Africa CDC to support African countries as they monitor and respond to public health threats was recognised by the AU in 2013 and formalised in 2015.
Guinea President, Alpha Conde, whose country was one of the Ebola-affected states between 2013 and 2015, attended the launch ceremony in his capacity as the Chairperson of the AU.
He was accompanied by the former Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, and other senior officials of the Commission.
Since the AU Ministers of Health meeting in Malabo adopted the Statute of the Africa CDC in July 2015 and urged the fast-tracking of the establishment of the institution, much progress has been made.
Five Regional Collaborating Centres to work with the African CDC Coordinating Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have also been selected.
An Emergency Operations Centre has been set up at the Addis Ababa headquarters of the AU and 10 highly qualified epidemiologists are ready to monitor for disease threats across the continent.
The epidemiologists will be responsible for disease surveillance, investigations, analysis, and reporting trends and anomalies.
A director, Dr John Nkengasong, has been recruited and a governing board appointed.
The Africa CDC will join the international network of public health institutions to share information and improve surveillance of public health threats.
As an African-owned institution, the Africa CDC is uniquely positioned to help protect the health of the continent.