A Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) has been signed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chair of the AU Commission, which formalises a collaboration between the AU Commission and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 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," said CDC director Dr Tom Frieden. "This memorandum solidifies the commitment by the US to advance public health across Africa and global health security."
The need for an African CDC was recognised at the AU 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 Centre.
"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 said.
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 AU 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 organised 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 Centres in the five AU geographic regions to work with the African CDC Coordinating Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Field epidemiologists will be among the technical staff supporting both the Regional Collaborating Centre and the African CDC Coordinating Centre. The field epidemiologists will be responsible for disease surveillance, investigations, analysis, and reporting trends and anomalies.
"The US CDC applauds the AU and member states in their leadership of this historic initiative," said Dr Tom Kenyon, director of the CDC's Centre for Global Health. "This is a landmark event in African ownership of improving health across the continent. The US CDC looks forward to engaging in this partnership for many years to come."
Through the MOC, the US 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 US CDC will be co-located at the AU to serve as long-term technical advisors to the African CDC. Additionally, the US CDC will support fellowships for 10 African epidemiologists to help staff the African CDC Coordinating and Regional Collaborating Centres.
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 Centres, 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.Centres for Disease Control and Prevention material