European Union and African Union sign partnership to scale up preparedness for health emergencies

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) launched a new partnership initiative to strengthen the capacity of Africa CDC to prepare for and respond to public health threats in Africa. The four-year project ‘EU for health security in Africa: ECDC for Africa CDC’, funded by the EU, will also facilitate harmonised surveillance and disease intelligence, and support the implementation of the public health workforce strategy of Africa CDC.

Commission Vice-President for promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas said: “The coronavirus pandemic has shown more clearly than ever that health security – a longstanding objective in the cooperation between the African Union and the European Union – must remain a global priority. The new partnership between the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control and the Africa CDC is a crucial step to achieve this common goal. We are acting now, together, to end this crisis and be prepared for future outbreaks. Our AU-EU Commission-to-Commission meeting in February was instrumental in reinforcing the prospects of our cooperation that is now bearing fruit.”

Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, stressed: “The COVID-19 pandemic shows how crucial it is to invest in health systems to ensure they are prepared to deal with such crisis. The EU supports the continental leadership and coordination of the African Union in responding to the ongoing pandemic, and together we are helping partner countries to strengthen their capacities to prevent, detect and respond to health threats.”

As a continent, we recognize the socioeconomic impact that disease outbreaks have had on our people. We know that fighting COVID-19 in Africa is not only about saving lives today, but about the future of the continent, it is about strengthening our health systems to better support preparedness and response to health emergencies in the future. This funding by the EU comes at a very good time and will go a long way in supporting capacity building of our public health institutions and experts,” said H.E. Amira Elfadil Mohammed, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission.

Supporting health security in Africa

This project illustrates the engagement of the European Union to help scale up preparedness for global health emergencies and to strengthen support to health systems in Africa.

Through this partnership, Africa CDC and ECDC will be able to exchange experiences and lessons learnt from working with African and European Member States on the continental harmonised surveillance of infectious diseases, data sharing, and early detection of threats, as well as on preparedness, risk assessment, rapid response, and emergency operations, and on how to adapt these to their needs. Capacity-building components in these areas of work will be integrated into the existing Africa CDC initiatives and strategies to support the African health security framework. 

Funded under the European Development Fund, the project includes a contribution agreement with ECDC of €9 million and a complementary grant to Africa CDC of €1 million to cover staffing costs. This agreement will come into effect on 1 January 2021.

Background

Like the rest of the world, African countries face immediate healthcare needs and will bear economic and social consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic. From the overall ‘Team Europe’ coronavirus response package, at least €8 billion will support actions in Africa. In healthcare, support focuses on strengthening preparedness and response capacities of countries with the weakest healthcare systems.

Already before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, €2.6 billion of the EU’s sustainable development funding for the period 2014-2020 had been allocated to health. Part of these funds have directly targeted health security while also strengthening health systems, including with €1.1 billion in 13 African countries: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea (Conakry), Guinea Bissau, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe.

Through the ‘Health Systems Strengthening for Universal Health Coverage Partnership Programme’ with WHO, the EU invests in building health care systems that provide quality services to everyone in more than 80 African, Caribbean, Pacific, and Asian countries. The EU contribution to the UHC-Partnership in the period 2012-2022 is €197.7 million.

The pandemic has amplified the need for global solidarity, multilateral cooperation and partnerships to tackle epidemics. In the longer term and throughout the recovery phase, this partnership-focused approach should also be brought to bear in revitalising initiatives for strengthening health systems and advancing universal health coverage, particularly through primary health care approaches that aim to meet the needs of the most.

ECDC is an independent agency of the EU whose mission is to strengthen Europe’s defences against infectious diseases. The Centre was established in 2004 and is located in Stockholm, Sweden. The Commission recently presented a proposal to significantly strengthen the mandate of the ECDC.

The Africa CDC was established in 2017 as a specialized institution mandated to support African Union Member States in their preparedness and response to diseases threats in Africa. Its headquarters are located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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