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China Strengthening its Diplomacy in Africa’s Health Sector

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CDC Africa Headquarters Africa's Health Sector

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

China and Africa will always be a community of a shared future. At least, its policy is strategically focused on addressing sustainable development, and China has indeed proved, over the years, in many aspects of dealing with Africa.

Results are seen especially with all kinds of infrastructure that have been built these years. And, of course, the appreciable results reflect the level of commitment to the action plans arrived at triannual summits.

In its white paper says that China’s approach involves basic principles including upholding a people-oriented approach in pursuing practical cooperation with efficiency. In its cooperation with Africa, it gives priority to the interests and wellbeing of the peoples of Africa and works to their benefit.

 China is committed to fully honouring the promises it has made to its African friends. Developing solidarity and cooperation with African countries has been the cornerstone of China’s foreign policy. In the fight for coronavirus, China will deliver one billion vaccines to Africa – with a population of 1.3 billion. This indicates further its efforts at promoting cooperation in basic healthcare delivery.

With the outbreak of coronavirus in December 2019, China was the first country in the world to convene an anti-pandemic summit with Africa. It has further called on international partners to increase support to Africa, while itself providing at various times medicament including vaccines to many African countries.

Quite recently during the last summit held in November, China’s President Xi Jinping elaborated on important policies on advancing China-Africa cooperation and strengthening cooperation amid the pandemic. In order to support, he promised one billion doses. It has made deliveries in many African countries.

China actively honours its commitment to make vaccines a global public good. At the time when Chinese vaccines had just reached the market and domestic supply was tight, China began to supply vaccines to Africa in support of its battle against the pandemic.

By November 2021, China had provided over 1.7 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to more than 110 countries and organizations, including 50 African countries and the AU Commission, and is striving to provide an aggregate total of – two billion doses by the end of 2021. In addition, it donated US$100 million to COVAX, which aims at ensuring all countries have access to a safe, effective vaccine.

COVAX is a global programme coordinated by the World Health Organization in partnership with GAVI – the Vaccine Alliance, the Center for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations and many others. Producing countries are free to donate vaccines through COVAX.

Chinese firms are actively engaging in joint vaccine production in Africa with local firms, helping countries, in accordance with their wishes, to realize localized vaccine production. According to reports, Chinese firms have started localized production in Egypt and signed cooperative agreements with Morocco and Algeria.

After the Covid-19 struck, in coordination with local governments, enterprises and social organizations, China has provided emergency anti-pandemic supplies – including 120 batches of nucleic test reagents, protective gears, masks, eye protectors and ventilators – to 53 African countries and the AU based on their respective needs, with these emergency supplies reaching almost all areas across the continent. It has, in addition, sent medical teams to a number of countries on the continent.

China has also actively shared its anti-epidemic experience with African countries and dispatched anti-epidemic medical expert groups or short-term anti-epidemic medical teams to 17 African countries to fight the epidemic alongside local people.

It has pushed for the earlier start of the construction of the headquarters of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a project assisted by China. This shows another huge step in undertaking the building of the headquarters of the Africa CDC located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At the 2018 Beijing Summit and the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China – Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing, the Government of China expressed its commitment to support the building of the Africa CDC HQ. African leaders welcomed this with appreciation and committed to supporting the realization of the project.

Located in the African Village, south of Addis Ababa, the new site covers an area of 90,000m2 with a total construction area of nearly 40,000m2. When completed the building will include an emergency operation centre, a data centre, a laboratory, a resource centre, briefing rooms, a training centre, a conference centre, offices, and expatriate apartments, all to be constructed, furnished and equipped by the Government of China.

In accordance with a number of agreements concluded between the AU and the Government of China, the AU Commission and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China signed the Implementation Agreement on the Africa CDC HQ’s building project in July 2020.

The headquarters building is expected to become one of the best-equipped centres for disease control in Africa, allowing the Africa CDC to play its role as the technical institution coordinating disease prevention, surveillance and control in the continent, in partnership with the national public health institutes and ministries of health of Member States.

H.E. Amira Elfadil Mohamed, Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development and H.E. Ambassador Liu Yuxi, Head of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to Ethiopia attended the ceremony on behalf of the African Union Commission and the Government of the People’s Republic of China respectively.

Speaking at the ceremony, Commissioner Elfadil said the completion of the first phase marks 45 per cent of the total construction. “While celebrating our success in reaching 45% of total project completion within an impressive record of 348 days. The African Union would like to express its sincere appreciation to the Government of the People Republic of China for funding the whole project, and to all the stakeholders who have played their respective roles and tirelessly assisted the team in achieving its target,” she said.

In his remarks, H.E. Ambassador Liu Yuxi underlined the close China-Africa partnership. “As we speak, the Covid-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc across the globe. However, it cannot prevent China-Africa cooperation from growing in depth and substance. China and Africa stand together with mutual assistance, team up amid difficulties and treat each other wholeheartedly.”

He added that the Africa CDC building itself is a manifestation of beneficial and practical work for the African people. China will proceed to try its utmost to assist African countries in responding to the pandemic and restoring economic and social development. By combating Covid-19, China and Africa have withstood severe challenges, helping each other and fighting side by side to defeat the pandemic through solidarity and cooperation.

China is participating in the African Vaccine Manufacturing Partnership (AVMP) launched by the African Union in April 2021. This Continental Vaccine Manufacturing Vision is “to ensure that Africa has timely access to vaccines to protect public health security, by establishing a sustainable vaccine development and manufacturing ecosystem in Africa.”

It is also a splendid testimony of China unflinching support for Africa. “Together, we have written a splendid chapter of mutual assistance amidst complex changes, and set a shining example for building a new type of international relations,” Xi said later in one of his speeches, and emphasizing the principles of China’s Africa policy as pursuing the greater good and shared interests.

China and Africa jointly launched an Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development this year. It emphasizes that all countries should carry out cooperation with Africa on the premise of respecting Africa’s sovereignty and listening to Africa’s voice, give full play to their respective advantages and pool efforts in an effective way, and do more beneficial and practical work for the well-being of the African people.

China and Africa are working closely. At the initiative of both China and African countries, FOCAC was inaugurated at its first Ministerial Conference in Beijing in October 2000, with the goals of responding to the challenges emerging from economic globalization and seeking common development. FOCAC now has 55 members, comprising China, the 53 African countries that have diplomatic relations with China, and the AU Commission.

Beyond the borders of Africa, China expresses and appeals for upscaling the development and improving the basic needs of the underprivileged peoples in Africa. While attending the General Debate of the 76th Session of The United Nations General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative, calling on the international community to accelerate the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Health

NAFDAC Stops Registration of Alcoholic Drinks in Sachet, Bottles

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Alcoholic Drinks in Sachet

By Adedapo Adesanya

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has stopped the registration of new alcoholic drinks in sachet, small volume PET and glass bottles above 30 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume).

This information was contained in a statement issued on Monday in Abuja by the Director-General of NAFDAC, Mrs Mojisola Christiana Adeyeye.

She disclosed that the ban followed the recommendation of a high powered committee of the Federal Ministry of Health and the agency.

The NAFDAC chief added that this also followed other recommendations from Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and Industry represented by the Association of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE), and the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN) in December 2018.

“In a decisive move to reduce availability and curb abuse of alcohol in the country, NAFDAC has stopped the registration of alcohol in sachet and small volume PET and glass bottles below 200ml amidst other stringent regulatory measures,” the statement reiterated.

According to her, NAFDAC will ensure that the validity of the renewal of already registered alcoholic products in the affected category will not exceed the year 2024.

She explained that manufacturers of low volume alcohol beverages (200ml) with satisfactory laboratory reports, which were already submitted to NAFDAC for registration before this decision have been directed to reformulate their products to stipulated standards free of charge.

According to her, the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria was also given a matching order to embark on intensive nationwide sensitization campaigns against underage consumption of alcohol by adolescents below the age of 18 years in the bid to stem the tide of alcohol abuse in the country.

She explained that the producers of alcohol in sachets and small volume agreed to reduce production by 50 per cent with effect from January 31, 2020, while ensuring the products are completely phased out in the country by  January 31, 2024.

“Even as we grapple with the containment of COVID-19 pandemic, NAFDAC is resolutely committed to the strict implementation of the regulations and regulatory measures towards safeguarding the Health of Nigerians particularly the vulnerable youths against the dangers of reckless consumption of Alcohol,” the NAFDAC DG noted.

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FG Strengthens Efforts to Combat Lassa Fever Outbreak

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Lassa Fever Outbreak

By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government through the Ministry of Environment has strengthened responses to the current Lassa fever outbreak in the country as cases continue to rise.

In a statement signed by the Director of Press in the Ministry of Environment, Saghir el Mohammed, it was stated that the most recent situation report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on January 16, 2022, indicated that the country recorded 96 confirmed cases and 11 deaths from January 3 to January 16, 2022, in 27 local government areas across 11 states.

These states are Bauchi, Edo, Ondo, Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Kogi, Cross River, Ebonyi and Oyo.

The NCDC added that 510 confirmed cases and 102 deaths occurred from January 2021 to January 2, 2022.

The statement revealed that activities on environmental health and sanitation response to the Lassa fever outbreak in the country have been put in place.

Mr Mohammed noted that the Minister of State for the Environment, Ms Sharon Ikeazor, has already embarked on environmental health and sanitation response campaign in 11 states of the federation to ensure improvement in environmental sanitation of premises, abatement of the nuisance, rodent control, food hygiene and safety.

Ms Ikeazor, while noting that Nigeria was currently experiencing an increasing number of reported Lassa fever cases across the country, revealed that before the recent outbreak, the ministry had taken proactive measures to improve the overall sanitation and hygiene situation in the country by establishing sanitation desks in all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to ensure proper monitoring and proactive measures on environmental health issues and concerns.

She said: “This is in addition to the setting up of Environmental Health Surveillance Systems (EHSS) designed to strengthen cooperation between the states and federal government on environmental health and sanitation issues, which would aid information/data gathering and sharing between the federal, state and local governments.

“They are also involved in prevention and containment activities including surveillance/monitoring and reporting of Lassa fever cases and other environmental determinant diseases to the Federal Ministry of Environment. The Sanitation Desks are being replicated in all the 774 LGAs in the country.”

The Minister added that the ministry, over the years, had collaborated with the NCDC, World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholders to carry out activities to prevent and contain the perennial Lassa fever outbreaks in Nigeria.

She stated that the ministry’s environmental health officers, in collaboration with sanitation desks in the states and local government environmental health officers, are currently in the field implementing environmental sanitation response activities in Lassa fever affected states.

“As a ministry, we remain committed to our mandate of pest and vector control in Nigeria. To this end, we are entrenching sustainable programmes focusing on eliminating and reducing breeding avenues for disease vectors which involve fostering collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

“Furthermore, we shall continue to develop the capacity of Environmental Health Practitioners in the federal, state and local government jurisdictions. State Ministries of Environment are hereby enjoined to develop a comprehensive Lassa fever prevention programme that will include rodent infestation survey and deratisation,” Ms Ikeazor stated.

She, however, assured the general public that the ministry remained committed to ensuring that the environment would remain clean, healthy and safe for all.

Lassa fever virus is transmitted by rodents (rats), which could be found in our environment including homes, motor parks, offices and even places of worship. This contributes largely to the risk of spread that occurs in Nigeria and other countries with similar ecological factors.

The Minister, therefore, called on members of the public to keep their surroundings clean, keep food away from rodents, store grains and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers and cook all foods thoroughly before consumption.

She also advised residents to block rat hideouts, carry out deracization, put an end to the practice of eating rats, dry farm produce in hygienic manners by refraining from drying crops on the ground where rodents could freely run through; as Lassa fever is often associated with poor sanitary and hygiene practices with cases being recorded all year round.

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Lagos Calls for Caution as COVID-19 Fourth Wave Ends

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UK COVID-19 Variant

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Lagos State Government has announced the end of the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the state following the consistent decrease in cases over a period of time.

The state’s Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi disclosed this through his verified Twitter account @ProfAkinolaAbayomi over the weekend, while giving the state’s COVID-19 update for the week ended January 20.

The state had on December 7 announced the beginning of the fourth wave as the daily infection figure from the virus spiked.

Prof. Abayomi said that there was a reduction in positivity rates of COVID-19 infection from 29.3 per cent recorded on December 21, to 1.9 per cent as of January 20.

According to him, bed capacity utilisation now stands at two per cent, and the fatality rate stands at 0.71 per cent, which indicated that the COVID-19 fourth wave has ended.

The Commissioner said that 46 new infections were confirmed on the reported date, increasing the number of COVID-19 infections in the state to 98,284.

He noted that 1,023,203 sample tests had been conducted since the inception of the pandemic in the state.

Mr Abayomi advised residents to get vaccinated and continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions to further reduce the spread of the virus.

In another interview with Channels Television, he confirmed the result saying, “We are now out of the fourth wave, we don’t know what will happen next.

“But we want to be prepared and the State Governor has said that we need to hit certain targets this year, so we are going to go back to the drawing board because there’s a little bit of vaccine hesitancy in Lagos.

“We really need to look at how to encourage Lagosians to accommodate taking these vaccines. We know that vaccines are effective in terms of reducing your vulnerability to severe illness from Covid.

“It doesn’t so much protect you from Covid but it protects you from getting extremely unwell or even dying and that’s exactly what we want in Lagos: we don’t want people to get sick and die. You can catch a cold or Covid, but we want you to recover.

“In this fourth wave, most people were managed at home, because the Omicron variant didn’t seem to affect the lungs as badly as the Delta variant.”

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