by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – THE African Union (AU) Chairperson, Cyril Ramaphosa, believes the continent has vast experience in dealing with disease outbreaks, which has put it in good stead to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The South African president stated this on Monday, three days after convening a teleconference of the African Union (AU) Bureau, which consists of the leaders of Egypt, Mali, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
“While Africa has weak health systems and millions of people live in conditions of poverty, several countries across Africa have wide-ranging and extensive experience in managing infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics,” Ramaphosa said.
Indeed, while the continent’s health systems are cause for concern, but president Ramaphosa pointed out the continent has managed to quell previous outbreaks, particularly the Ebola.
Two of the world’s worst Ebola crises have been in the continent, namely the West African outbreak in 2014-16 and the DRC outbreak that began in 2018 and is on the verge of eradication.
The West African outbreak was the worst, with over 11 000 deaths.
Ramaphosa said the regional task forces established by the AU would put this experience of eradicating outbreaks to good effect as Africa confronted the current health emergency.
AU established regional COVID-19 task forces in each of Africa’s five regions- Southern African Development Community (SADC), East, West, Central and Northern Africa.
He none the less Africa said Africa was facing a severe shortage of coronavirus test kits, medicines, face masks and other personal protection equipment.
“We are therefore working with the WHO (World Health Organisation), Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various world leaders to mobilise international support for Africa, to enable the flow of vital supplies into the continent and to significantly increase local production in African countries,” he said.
Despite the continent’s experience in containing disease outbreaks, Africa faces a severe shortage of COVID-19 test kits, medicines, face masks and other personal protection equipment.
The continent is working closely with the WHO, Africa CDC and various world leaders to mobilise international support for the African continent.
The bloc has since established an AU COVID-19 Response Fund, to which AU Bureau members have already committed $12,5 million.
Funding to the Africa CDC was aimed at increasing additional $4,5 million already committed to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa said in both their respective national responses and the continental effort, African countries would continue holding their own.
“In collaboration with the WHO our pandemic preparedness plans have been solid,” he said.
“In areas where constraints exist, there has been demonstrated commitment to extend support and capacity to those countries in need,” Ramaphosa said.
He hailed the Africa CDC and Prevention as “World-class.”
Ramaphosa said if Africa continued in this positive vein, the continent would truly demonstrate it was more than capable of resolving its challenges.
“Through deeper collaboration, we will turn the tide against this virus, region by region, country by country,” Ramaphosa said.
To date there have been over 7,800 confirmed cases in nearly 50 of the 54 African countries with few deaths reported.
– CAJ News