Brazzaville – The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the continental drive to strengthen the architecture of pandemic preparedness and response in Africa. This is critical for protecting and saving African lives as evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO fully supports the ongoing process led by the Africa Union to strengthen the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and applauds its elevation to an autonomous body.
WHO welcomes the ongoing discussion led by the Africa CDC on a potential continental pandemic declaration mechanism. It is important to assess the benefits and the risks for African Member States. Such a mechanism could reduce Africa’s dependence on others but could also trigger more travel and trade restrictions and isolate the continent as occurred with the emergence of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Fifty-four African Member States are also currently contributing to the new global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience led by WHO. Given increasing global interconnectivity, which we have seen with COVID-19, this negotiation will determine how Africa will be protected from outbreaks arising elsewhere and how to manage health emergencies originating in Africa.
Concerns over how the global and continental processes will work together, as well as questions over authorizing Africa CDC to declare public health emergencies of continental security led several African Member States to approach WHO for advice. Due to these requests, WHO understood there was a need to share advice more broadly and our African country representatives briefed their government counterparts.
One WHO official in a country office developed a brief to help inform his health authorities. Contrary to media reports, this was not an official document and was not widely circulated.
WHO believes a careful reflection on the interfacing between the declaration of a public health emergency of continental security and the global process would be of benefit.
As a long-standing partner and proponent of the Africa CDC, WHO fully applauds its elevation into a more robust and responsive institution as defined by Member States.
WHO commends the Africa CDC’s work to date and supports further strengthening this essential institution, which as it becomes more fully resourced and empowered will take on a critical role in ensuring better health for all people across the African continent.
WHO has been pleased to support the Africa CDC since the beginning, helping with its establishment by seconding a senior official who served as the most senior advisor to the Director during the organization’s first two years and by providing funding and technical collaboration.
A Memorandum of Understanding governs our partnershipand our staff work in tight collaboration on key health issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening public health capacities of countries. This collaboration is critical to ensuring our Member States get consistent advice and complementary support from both organizations.
We look forward to a continued fruitful collaboration which will lead to the Africa we all want, where everyone is protected from diseases and has access to quality and affordable health care.