- Born in the aftermath of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak five years ago
- Expert terms the development as sign of growing importance of health in AU
- COVID-19 pandemic seen as catalyst for the change
African heads of state have elevated the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to the status of an autonomous public health agency for the continent.
Africa-DCD was operating simply as technical arm of the African Union. It was established five years ago in the aftermath of West Africa’s 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that infected over 28,000 people, and killed over 11,000.
The outbreak highlighted the critical need for a continental entity for disease prevention, surveillance, and response. Thus, the Africa-CDC, as it’s popularly known, was born.
“It will now be elevated into a full public health agency for the continent, which will be more or less autonomous,” declared Dr John Nkengasong, Africa CDC’s director during the 35th AU Summit that took place over the weekend Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Dr Nkengasong said the elevation of Africa CDC signals the growing commitment of member states to strengthening Africa’s response to current and future disease outbreaks.
He said the decision is also a result of the continent leaders’ renewed perception of disease as a security threat for the continent, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, among other disease trends.
“They want to have full, timely access to anything that happens within the continent so that they can provide policy guidance. So I think that is extremely encouraging,” he added.
The change of status to being independent means, among other things, that Africa CDC will now have the legal, institutional, and operational autonomy to, for instance, serve as a channel to mobilise financing to build the necessary capabilities and to acquire vital continental assets for disease prevention and control.
Dr Githinji Gitahi, The group CEO at Amref health Africa, said “This also indicates the growing importance of health with the Africa Union.”