Africa CDC roots for resilient health systems to boost pandemic response

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FILE PHOTO: People queue in Windhoek, Namibia centre, to be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday June 15, 2021. (Dirk Heinrich via CFP)
FILE PHOTO: People queue in Windhoek, Namibia centre, to be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday June 15, 2021. (Dirk Heinrich via CFP)

Strengthening the resilience of Africa’s public health systems is urgent in order to boost the continent’s ability to withstand shocks linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, an official at Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

“One thing the pandemic has taught us is how central strong health systems are to economic growth,” Ebere Okereke, an honorary senior public health advisor at Africa CDC said during a virtual interview with Xinhua on Wednesday.

She opined that additional investment is required to revitalize public health systems in Africa through training, enhanced disease surveillance, seamless procurement of diagnostics and essential medicine.

According to Okereke, the African Union (AU) agenda 2063 has underscored the need for the continent to establish a vibrant public health system, focusing on disease prevention and quality clinical care as a prerequisite to attain transformation.

Africa CDC will host the inaugural annual conference on public health in Africa (CPHIA) from December 14 to 16 where policymakers, researchers and campaigners will discuss innovations that can boost the resilience of healthcare systems in the continent in the light of the pandemic.

Okereke said the three-day virtual summit will also discuss best practices that can be harnessed to inject vitality into Africa’s public health infrastructure and enhance its capacity to respond to future pandemics.

She said the continent is committed to improving manufacturing capacity for vaccines and therapeutics to enhance response to future pandemics that appear inevitable amid climatic shocks and depletion of habitats.

Okereke said that some of the challenges facing Africa’s public health systems include under-funding and a manpower gap that has led to the underperformance of preventive and curative services.

Moreover, investing in modern diagnostic equipment, capacity building for healthcare workers is key to enhancing the continent’s ability to respond to pandemics. “We must improve public health systems in Africa and place them at the centre of our development,” Okereke added.

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