With an urgent need for medical supplies and equipment to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, African Union (AU) Member States have called for international cooperation and support.
"Lifesaving supplies, including PPEs [personal protective equipment] masks, gowns, and ventilators and other support devices are urgently needed," said the AU Bureau in statement on Friday.
The continental body made the call on Friday in a second teleconference meeting convened by AU Chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Abdel Fattah al Sisi of the Arab Republic of Egypt, President Ibrahim Keita of the Republic of Mali, President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya, and President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as members of the Bureau, participated in the teleconference meeting.
The meeting was held to discuss the African response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
A call to lift sanctions
The Heads of States also strongly called for the immediate lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan, to allow them to adequately respond to the pandemic and save lives.
"The African Union has repeatedly called for the lifting of these punitive sanctions, which the Bureau consider intolerable and inhumane in the present context," said the Bureau in a statement.
President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Republic of Zimbabwe also participated in the teleconference.
Rising infection rates
The Bureau also received presentations from World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director, Dr John Nkengasong and President Emmanuel Macron of France.
Nkengasong gave a continental update, which highlighted rapidly increasing COVID-19 infection rates across the continent.
Ghebreyesus emphasised the importance of taking action now to test and to guarantee equitable access to test kits, masks, PPEs as well as vaccines and therapeutics as soon as they become available.
The meeting highlighted the unprecedented threat that COVID-19 presents to the health of African citizens and to the continent's hard-won developmental and economic gains.
They also recognised the imperative to establish humanitarian and trade corridors in a spirit of African solidarity and integration.
The Heads of States noted with satisfaction progress made in operationalising the AU COVID-19 Response Fund.
The fund was established on 26 March 2020, with members pledging a sum of US$12.5 million and an additional US$4.5million to the Africa CDC.
At the meeting, Heads of States agreed to establish continental Ministerial Coordination Committees on Health, Finance and Transport, in order to support the comprehensive continental strategy.
The Heads of States underscored the need for a comprehensive and coordinated continental approach and the need to speak with one voice on Africa's priorities.
Impact of the virus
Cognisant of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries, the Bureau reiterated the need for rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20 and other international partners.
These include the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
"It is critical that these institutions review their current disbursement policies to display flexibility and speed, including raising the availability of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)," said the Bureau.
Stimulus package, Sahel region
The Bureau also echoed the call for a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa. The package, it said, should include, deferred payments, the immediate suspension of interest payments on Africa's external public and private debt.
This it said, would create fiscal space for COVID-19 response measures.
Meanwhile, the body commended the rapid action coordinated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation in mobilising and distributing, with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP) and Africa CDC, the distribution of over one million diagnostic tests.
Over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks and 600 000 PPE items were delivered to all African Union Member States in less than a week.
The meeting noted that the Sahel region need special attention, in light of terrorist activity.
The Bureau pledged its solidarity with the countries in this region, who have to fight the twin scourge of terrorism and COVID-19.