Union (AU) to establish a pan-African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (African CDC) by mid-2015, a development that can bolster the continent’s desire to transform its health practices and promote the welfare of its people.

This idea was first proposed by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and approved by the African Union Commission in 2013 at its 22nd ordinary session in Abuja, Nigeria. “The idea of establishing the Centre has since been discussed in a series of AU summits and extraordinary sessions,” revealed Dr. Marie Goreti Harakeye, Head of HIV/AIDS, TB & OID Division Under the AU Department of Social Affairs.

“The Commission came to a decision to establish an African CDC by taking into consideration the health challenges faced by the continent and the necessity for an accountability framework for health security to protect citizens of Africa and beyond,” Dr Harakeye further stated.

Following recent threats from Ebola and other historical similarities, the Commission has become fully convinced of the urgent need to float a structure that supports member countries in their efforts to effectively respond to emergencies, address health challenges while building the requisite capacity.

According to a draft document which was approved at the 24th AU summit, the Centre will have the mission of addressing priority health concerns in Africa first through prevention and where needed, through detection and response.

The first phase of the centre’s establishment, which will last for 18 months and employ about 10 to 15 staff, is set to start in June at a running cost of $5 million that will be mobilized from member states. The success of the entire plan, however, will be hinged on how well the private sector and other stakeholders can be galvanized around this cause.

According to Harekeye, technical support has already been obtained from the disease control and prevention centres in China, the EU, United States and other partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Also, the centre’s initial coordination office is to be located at the headquarters of the AU Commission in Ethiopia and it will work closely with already existing centres in member countries.

Priority diseases for the African-CDC will be Polio, Ebola and the Avian flu; therefore, establishing a surveillance system for these diseases will be an immediate action step once the centre is established. In the course of time, however, the centre will also build its capacity to prevent and respond to natural disasters and bioterrorism.

“The African CDC will serve as a platform for member states to share knowledge, exchange lessons learned, build capacity and provide technical assistance to each other. The African CDC is African owned and member states hold ultimate responsibility over the public health services within the borders.” Dr. Harakeye concluded.

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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