Cameroon is the recipient of a new public health emergency center constructed with the support of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The facility, which provides training for hospital staff and helps to detect disease outbreaks, was inaugurated Monday by Cameroon's prime minister, with the U.S. ambassador on hand.
Prime Minister Philemon Yang said the Yaounde Public Health Emergency Operations Center will enable Cameroon to meet the objectives of the Global Health Security Agenda, launched in 2014 with the goal of making the world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.
"We require the continuous availability of detection capacities and the rapid deployment of operational teams as well as drugs and adequate logistics. This public health emergency center is at the heart of this mechanism," Yang said.
Cameroon joined the United States and 28 other nations as founding members of GHSA.
The government committed itself to improving food safety, to prevent the emergence and spread of drug resistant organisms, and to reduce the number and magnitude of infectious disease outbreaks.
The new emergency operations center cost $3.5 million to build. The U.S. ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Barlerin, said the U.S. has also assisted Cameroon through the construction of a National Public Health Laboratory, development of Ebola and cholera preparedness plans and supported the national surveillance systems in public and animal health.
"The important thing is to be able to react quickly and efficiently and this operation center will give Cameroon the opportunity to do that and to coordinate among different regions and with international authorities," Barlerin said.
Etoundi Mballa, head of disease control in Cameroon's Ministry of Public Health, said neighbors like Gabon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and the Central African Republic will also benefit from the services of the new center.
He said threats of infectious diseases that loom over Central Africa and affect mostly the poor include cholera, measles, yellow fever, polio and tetanus.
Mballa said the public health emergency operations center the people of America have helped Cameroon to construct will enable the central African states' health officials to detect disease outbreaks at the earliest possible moment, respond effectively with eradication or repost methods to save the lives of not only Cameroonians but the people of the entire central African sub region.
Cameroon has so far been spared the Ebola outbreaks that have hit several other African countries but experienced a cholera outbreak in July that killed at least a dozen people.