ETHIOPIA – The African Union Health Commission has committed to establishing a response plan and fund as part of the overall strategy to tackle the risk of impending waves of COVID-19 and future pandemics.
The decision was arrived at by the Secretariat and the Leads of the Working Groups of the Commission on Africa’s COVID-19 Response Strategy, having recognized the difficulties that Africa faced in a multilateral context.
The fund will be powered alongside the African Pandemic Preparedness and Response Authority (APPRA), the African Union (AU) Champion on COVID-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed.
According to the Presidency, APPRA aims to secure the region’s capacity to respond to subsequent waves of COVID-19 and future pandemics.
“While the proposed global collaboration on pandemic preparedness was welcomed in principle, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep inequalities between wealthy and low- and middle-income countries that were not resolved through multilateralism,” the Presidency said.
President Ramaphosa thanked the expert panel for the progressive agenda and impactful work done not only to strengthen the continental response to COVID-19 but also to secure future health resilience for the continent.
“I am in full agreement with the tasks that you have set out and that the entities that have already been set up need to be strengthened and interlinked effectively with an African pandemic preparedness authority,” said President Ramaphosa.
According to the statement released by the Presidency on Tuesday, the commission has been working to meet its twofold mandate since its inaugural meeting on 22 June 2021.
This includes identifying gaps in the continental COVID-19 response strategy and putting forward evidence-based interventions and to generate evidence to assess its impact on social and economic harm on the continent and proposing ways to a strong recovery.
The experts also determined that the region needed an autonomous, coherent strategy to ensure it can independently protect its people in the event of future outbreaks.
The panel has since committed to supporting the accessibility of new lifesaving therapeutics and intensifying efforts to close the oxygen capacity gap by targeting areas of need.
Meanwhile, regional intelligence gathering and sharing were also highlighted as a key challenge on the continent.
In addition, the commission said it will tackle the interrelated pandemics of gender-based violence and COVID-19 by evidence-based advocacy to reform laws and policies. The commission said the ability of women and girls to exercise autonomy over their bodies is a challenge, particularly during crisis periods.