Public health emergencies of national and international concern, expose the fragility of our emergency response systems and demonstrate the need for countries to be prepared and have the capacity to rapidly respond to outbreaks and other emergencies to maintain national and global health security.
The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), launched in February 2014, is a partnership of countries from around the world, and is designed to measurably address global vulnerability to the public health threats, strengthen systems, and ensure that a trained workforce has the tools needed to prevent, detect, and respond rapidly and effectively to infectious disease threats. And, stopping an outbreak at its source, whether naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental, requires close collaboration among the health, animal, agriculture, defense, security, development, and other sectors.
The 2014 Ebola epidemic revealed major weaknesses in the global capability for addressing biologic threats, claimed more than 11,000 lives, cost billions in economic losses, and posed an unprecedented threat to regional stability in West Africa – with the majority of cases in three adjacent West African countries: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As Ebola ravaged the region and weakened the already fragile health systems in these countries, the world was reminded that all countries need GHSA capabilities – safe, secure, and strong laboratories; a well-trained workforce; multi-sectoral collaboration; reliable and sensitive real-time disease surveillance systems; and a command structure to coordinate an effective and focused response. A massive and costly global emergency response was required to gain control of the epidemic in West Africa and to prevent the outbreak from taking root in other countries.
Graduates from the African FETPs have jointly responded to several outbreaks including polio monkey pox, Lassa fever, Rift Valley Fever, Meningitis, Yellow Fever, anthrax, cholera, dengue, malaria and measles; and conducted studies on priority health issues including HIV, non-communicable diseases, maternal-child health, and injuries, among many others. These examples highlight the effective joint projects and programs that have already helped countries protect their citizens from infectious diseases. U.S. government agencies and global partners are continuing to provide technical assistance and support in Africa to advance the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) vision of a safe and secure world.
In light of that, and the increase in emerging and re-emerging pandemics, AFENET is establishing a team of disease detectives “AFENET Corps of Disease Detectives” in line with the GHSA action packages 3 & 5 to ensure maximum and efficient utilization of the well trained workforce from both the Frontline and the two year FETP. It will also foster collaboration with African MoHs as well as the established relationships with other agencies.
During the AFENET biennial regional scientific conference in Tanzania 2011 and Abuja, August 2016, the African Ministers of Health unanimously agreed that AFENET in collaboration with relevant stakeholders continues to lead efforts in building capacity for the public health workforce in Africa through FELTPs.
Because of its already existing programs and networks of epidemiologists across Africa, AFENET is well positioned to implement and manage ACoDD which will initially be structured to utilize AFENET platform (as a pilot) and eventually opened up to other agencies and organizations.
Establishing the AFENET Corps of Disease Detectives (ACoDD) will provide opportunity for AFENET FE(L)TPs graduates to collaborate and also redefine the Africa Health Security Strategy.