East Africa: Ethiopia Likely to Host East Africa COVID-19 Response Centre

Community health workers at a handwashing station at a healthcare center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 1, 2020.

Ethiopia is likely to host a centre for one of the task forces to be established across the continent of Africa in response to the spread and impact of Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Ethiopia is likely to host a centre for one of the task forces to be established across the continent of Africa in response to the spread and impact of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The decision of establishing five centres in Africa comes after the African Union Bureau of Heads of State & Government held a teleconference last week with chiefs of the WHO and CDC-Africa.

"What they told us was extremely concerning," said Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's President and chairperson of the Africa Union (AU).

The bureau comprises leaders of Egypt, Kenya, DRC and Mali as well as Moussa F. Mahamat, commissioner of the AU. However, in the teleconference other speakers from Rwanda, Senegal, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe have participated.

"It confirmed the need to act swiftly and to undertake extraordinary measures," said Ramaphosa.

At 1,749, his country has the largest number of confirmed cases, representing one tenth of the infection in the continent. There have been 492 Coronavirus related fatalities on record, of which the largest number comes from North Africa, one of the five regions the AU targets to open response task forces. They are meant to oversee screening, detection and diagnosis; infection prevention and control; clinical management of infected persons; and communications and community engagement.

Last February, the CDC-Africa established the Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus (AFCOR) to coordinate preparedness and responses across the continent. The continental task force has six technical working groups, focusing on surveillance to risk communications. Its creators hope AFCOR will provide strategic direction on how to implement continental strategy and what kind of priorities need to be taken in consideration for prevention and controlling of COVID-19.

The five regional task forces are tasked with coordinating between the member states, identifying the priority and activities in each region with the continental team.

The structure of the task forces is currently under development and is expected to be announced by the end of this week or beginning of next week, according to people familiar with the process.

The African Union and Africa CDC have also established a COVID-19 Response Fund, which so far has raised 17 million dollars contributed from member states and Africa CDC, the continental health response body. Three weeks ago, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Jack Ma Foundation, with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP) and Africa CDC, coordinated for the distribution of over one million diagnostic tests, six million masks and 600,000 units of personal protective equipment to all African Union member states. The second batch of donations from the Ma and Alibaba foundations has arrived in Addis Abeba beginning this week.

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