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SPOTLIGHT: A year of working with Africa CDC to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern at the end of January 2020, public health agencies including the Africa Centers for Disease Control

initiated plans to respond to the outbreak. The initial strategy was to rapidly scale up capacity across the continent in the areas of surveillance, infection prevention and control (IPC), laboratory diagnosis and case management for COVID-19. This was in addition to convening and participating in high level advocacy meetings on the continent to map a way forward for preparedness and response. AFENET participated in and facilitated Africa CDC’s continental response to the pandemic.

In February 2020, a meeting of Health Ministers of African Union member states endorsed the Africa Taskforce for Coronavirus (AFCOR), a joint continental strategy to better prepare and respond to the disease, including a common approach for monitoring and movement restrictions of people at risk of COVID-19 and for information sharing. AFENET provided logistic support for this meeting, which in addition to the Health Ministers was attended by more than 100 delegates from across the continent. AFENET was represented at the meeting by the Director, Dr Simon Antara and other staff.

Several partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the SKOLL Foundation provided unrestricted funding through AFENET to fast track the operationalization of the AFCOR. With this support, we were able to facilitate various activities under the 5 pillars of AFCOR (surveillance, laboratory, clinical care, countermeasures and policy and coordination). Key achievements by pillar are summarized below:

AFCOR Pillar

Achievements

Surveillance

-Training of over 20 member states on event-based surveillance in the context of COVID-19.

-Deployment of 110 rapid responders to Africa CDC Headquarters, Regional Collaborating Centres (RCCs) & 15 AU member states

-Deployment of 161 community health workers in Cameroon under phase 1 of Africa CDC’s PACT (Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing) initiative.

Laboratory

-Training on laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19 for 28 countries

-Purchase and distribution of more than 30,000 COVID-19 test kits to AU member states.

- Deployment of 13 rapid responders to 6 AU member states

Healthcare preparedness

-Establishment of a virtual community of practice for case management of COVID-19 (21 webinars, 327 participants on average, and 50 AU member states).

-Deployment of 20 rapid responders to Africa CDC Headquarters & RCCs, & 6 AU member states

Countermeasures

-Procurement of non-pharmaceutical countermeasures (300,000 surgical masks, 20,000 protective suits, 50 N95 masks and 30,000 face shields) for distribution to AU member states and for RCCs

-Facilitated translation of at least 60 guidance documents produced by Africa CDC for dissemination to member states

-Training for 26 countries on risk communication

Policy and coordination

 

-Facilitated emergency ministerial meeting attended by 35 member states that developed and endorsed the AFCOR.

-Facilitated Africa CDC staff’s participation in > 9 emergency regional meetings focused on coordinating preparedness and response to COVID-19.

-14 rapid responders (communication & administration) deployed to Africa CDC Headquarters and RCCs.

 

Following the activation of the AFCOR, other partners such as the Mastercard Foundation provided funding to Africa CDC through AFENET to support targeted interventions to facilitate response to the pandemic. This support, which is still ongoing, has to date achieved the following: 

Intervention

Achievements

Deployment of rapid responders

-Deployed 161 surveillance responders within 15 Africa Union (AU) member states, Africa CDC and its RCCs to support response

Procurement of test kits and medical equipment

Purchased 1,970,000 test kits, 522 oxygen concentrators, and 157 ventilators. Test kits were distributed to 52 AU member states, while oxygen concentrators and ventilators were distributed to 11 AU member states.

Roll out of the PACT initiative

Expanded implementation of Africa CDC’s PACT initiative from an initial 2 countries to the current number of 25 countries. 

Clinical care for COVID-19

Continued support for the community of practice for clinical management of COVID-19

Institutional capacity building for Africa CDC

-Recruitment of personnel to support various aspects of Africa CDC’s operations with respect to preparedness and response.

 

The Ford Foundation has also provided funding to Africa CDC through AFENET to support staffing needs at Africa CDC and facilitate deployment of community health workers (CHWs).

Being part of this initiative broadened our reach across the continent, but more importantly strengthened our partnership with Africa CDC. We believe this partnership and others built through our involvement in this response will be useful platforms as we continue to work to improve global health security.