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A Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) signed today by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, MB, ChB, chairperson of the African Union Commission, formalizes a collaboration between the African Union Commission and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in creating the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (African CDC).
“The West African Ebola epidemic reaffirmed the need for a public health institute to support African ministries of health and other health agencies in their efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to any disease outbreak,” says CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “This memorandum solidifies the commitment by the United States to advance public health across Africa and global health security.”
The need for an African CDC was recognized at the African Union Special Summit on HIV and AIDS, TB, and Malaria in Abuja in July 2013. The concept has since moved through various stages of development, stakeholder review, and approval. The African CDC is slated to launch later this year with the establishment of an African Surveillance and Response Unit, which will include an Emergency Operations Center.
“The African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (African CDC) will help African countries effectively monitor public health, respond to public health emergencies, address complex health challenges, and build needed capacity,” Dlamini-Zuma says.
The African CDC Surveillance and Response Unit will provide technical expertise and response coordination during emergencies. Through the AU Support for Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) mission, the African Union sent over 800 medical volunteers and public health responders to fight the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone from September 2014 to February 2015. With the African CDC in place, these volunteers and others can be organized to form a deployable force ready to serve Member States during future health emergency responses on the continent.
The African CDC will identify five Regional Collaborating Centers in the five AU geographic regions to work with the African CDC Coordinating Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Field epidemiologists will be among the technical staff supporting both the Regional Collaborating Centers and the African CDC Coordinating Center. The field epidemiologists will be responsible for disease surveillance, investigations, analysis, and reporting trends and anomalies.
“The U.S. CDC applauds the African Union and Member States in their leadership of this historic initiative,” says Tom Kenyon, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Center for Global Health. “This is a landmark event in African ownership of improving health across the continent. The U.S. CDC looks forward to engaging in this partnership for many years to come.”
Through the MOC, the U.S. CDC will provide technical expertise for the African CDC Surveillance and Response Unit, as well as advise African CDC leadership in strategic planning for future development. Specifically, two public health experts from the U.S. CDC will be co-located at the African Union to serve as long-term technical advisors to the African CDC. Additionally, the U.S. CDC will support fellowships for 10 African epidemiologists to help staff the African CDC Coordinating and Regional Collaborating Centers.
The African CDC will seek ongoing collaboration of other public health entities across the African continent and globally to elevate health outcomes for all African citizens. Partners may assist by implementing activities, supporting the establishment of the Regional Collaborating Centers, advising the African CDC leadership and staff, or by providing technical assistance. African CDC partners may also strategically support professional associations to coordinate programmatic activities across the public health domains.