A five-year strategic plan for strengthening public health emergency operations centers in Africa and Eastern Mediterranean countries has been launched by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, member states, the UK Health Security Agency, and other development partners.
It is anticipated that at least 50 African nations would implement the five-year strategy plan for 2023–2027, which was unveiled on Wednesday night at the ongoing third International Conference on Public Health in Africa in Lusaka, Zambia, in order to significantly improve health response and readiness.
The strategic plan is to direct the establishment of PHEOCs in Member States of the Eastern Mediterranean and African Regions in a way that satisfies the fundamental needs or specifications of a PHEOC.
The strategy will direct countries as they actively seek to establish PHEOCs as the hubs for risk assessment, resource sharing, and planning.
Through its assistance to Member States in strengthening their public health emergency management capacities, the PHEOC plays a vital role in fulfilling the requirements of international health legislation.
Nonetheless, it is projected that $181,837,498 will be required to carry out the initiatives slated for both regions during the following five years.
The budget will pay for, among other things, the cost of remodeling the PHEOC facilities, buying information technology equipment, paying experts’ salaries and daily subsistence allowances, having them participate in workshops, running training and simulation programs, and creating regional PHEOCs of excellence.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Director General of WHO Regional Director for Africa, stated during the plan’s launch that the plan will influence public health in the Eastern Mediterranean and African regions going forward.
She claims that the devastation caused by disease outbreaks and conflicts puts millions of people’s health at danger and presents obstacles to that health.
“Together, we are tackling the next stage to ensure a future free from fear and filled with safety, health, and resilience from public health emergencies.
“The plan represents a significant turning point in the process of guaranteeing health security and timely reaction to public health emergencies,” Dr. Moeti stated.
The regional director of WHO stated that cooperation and resource sharing are necessary to guarantee the plan’s execution.
“We’re starting a new chapter in African health security that will help future generations,” she continued.
As for the Africa CDC, its director general, Dr. Jean Kaseya, stated that all of the continent’s nations are vulnerable to outbreaks since there is only one nation in Africa that is prepared to handle a public health disaster.
As is well known, there are two to three outbreaks on average every week in the African region.
“We already have 158 public health emergencies that we are managing from January to November 2023,” he stated.
The Director of the Africa CDC emphasized that robust PHEOCs are the only means of both preventing and controlling outbreaks. Even though there has been improvement in emergency preparedness and response, inequality, according to him, persists. To support the five-year strategy plan’s implementation, he does, however, advocate for collaborations.
The discrepancy we observe calls for a solid alliance between us.
“We are urging all of our partners and colleagues to think about what we can accomplish with this five-year strategic plan—90% of countries having PHEOCs, at the very least.
To put this idea into action, we need $181 million. Let’s join forces, make sure we’re moving forward, and make sure we give at least the $181 million we’re asking for,” Kaseya declared.
In order to help member states contribute to the plan’s implementation, he promised to raise awareness of it.
It was reports that the goals of the strategic plan are to support preparedness and response coordination among at least 90% of member states in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean by 2027; to ensure that by that time, at least 90% of member states in these regions have developed and implemented the core PHEOC policy, plans, and procedures; and to build and strengthen the capabilities of the PHEOC workforce (routine and surge staff).
Other goals are to guarantee that by 2027, at least 90% of PHEOCs in the Member States of Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region will have information management and sharing platforms with the minimal amount of data necessary, and that at least 90% of these Member States will have a PHEOC facility in place with the minimal amount of information, communication technology, and physical infrastructure.
Additionally, by the end of 2027, eight PHEOC centers of excellence are to be designated in a few member states in the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and African regions.