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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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WHO Partners Health Authorities to Bolster Monkeypox Testing in Africa

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Monkeypox

By Adedapo Adesanya

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that it was working with national health authorities in Africa to bolster surveillance and laboratory diagnosis to detect cases and deter a silent spread of the virus.

The continent as of June 28 has reported 1,821 cases in 13 countries of which 109 are laboratory confirmed in nine countries. The number of confirmed cases accounts for 2 per cent of the more than 4,500 confirmed cases globally.

However, there are a large number of suspected cases in the region, 81 per cent of which are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, underlining the need for increased diagnostic capacity.

While all African countries have the polymerase chain reaction machines needed to test for monkeypox thanks to reinforced laboratory capacity in the wake of COVID-19, many lack reagents and in some cases training in specimen collection, handling and testing.

As a result, WHO is working to secure 60,000 tests for Africa, with around 2,000 tests and reagents to be shipped to high-risk countries and 1,000 to those facing lower risk.

Over the past months, five more African countries have received donations of reagents from partners, bringing to 12 the number of countries in the region with enhanced monkeypox diagnostic capacity. Another group of countries in West Africa will receive reagents after participating in a training.

Outside the six countries in Africa with a history of human transmission, monkeypox has also been reported in three countries which have not previously had any human cases. These include Ghana, Morocco and South Africa, which have confirmed the disease in two patients with no travel history, suggesting there is a high possibility of local transmission.

“The geographic spread of monkeypox to parts of Africa where cases have never been detected before is a worrying sign,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It is critical that we support national efforts to boost surveillance and laboratory diagnosis, which are the cornerstones of disease control.”

To deepen the analysis of monkeypox transmission patterns, WHO is supporting countries to capitalize on the improved genomic sequencing capacity built during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many years of research have led to the development of new and safer (second- and third-generation) vaccines for smallpox, some of which may be useful for monkeypox and one of which (MVA-BN) has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox. However, supplies are limited.

“What happened in the early days of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout when Africa watched on the sidelines as other countries snapped up limited supplies must not be allowed to recur. There are some signs that this is already happening,” said Dr Moeti. “The current global spotlight on monkeypox should be a catalyst to beat this disease once and for all in Africa. For this, we know vaccines are a critical tool.”

WHO is also working closely with the Member States and partners to define what type of coordination mechanism could be put in place to ensure fair access to vaccines. There are many regulatory, legal, operational, technical, and other issues to clarify before an allocation mechanism is fully operational.

With limited vaccines and antivirals, WHO does not recommend mass vaccination for monkeypox but rather targeted vaccination for people who have been exposed or are at high risk including health workers, laboratory personnel and outbreak team responders.

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African Health Scientists Attend Monkeypox Virus Workshop

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Monkeypox virus workshop

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

With rising cases of Monkeypox virus in Africa, the Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) and the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) have jointly held their first training on Real-Time PCR-based Monkeypox virus (MPXV) testing for 20 African Union Member States in Abuja, Nigeria.

It was the first in the series of hands-on training on real-time PCR-based monkeypox virus (MPXV) diagnosis launched and organized in partnership with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in June.

The three-day training workshop is designed to cover a combination of theoretical and hands-on training in the collection and handling of MPXV suspected specimens; isolation of nucleic acid; detection of MPXV using RT-PCR assay; interpretation and reporting of results for public health interventions.

Furthermore, the Africa CDC in partnership with Jiangsu Bioperfectus Technologies Co., Ltd. will distribute MPXV RT-PCR kits to expand testing in participating Member States.

Dr Yenew Kebede, Head Division of Laboratory Systems and Networks at the Africa CDC, said: “Laboratory testing capacity is key to expanding MPXV surveillance in endemic and non-endemic countries across the continent. This training is timely and critical to building and expanding MPXV testing capacity and capability across the continent. We will continue to organize additional trainings and distribute testing kits to the additional African Member States in order to strengthen MPXV surveillance in the continent.”

Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, Director General of NCDC, commented: “Establishing diagnostic capacity for infectious diseases including for monkeypox virus is an essential first step in gaining the understanding required for preparedness and response. So, we are very delighted to partner with Africa CDC to conduct hands-on training for 20 African countries on the RT-PCR-based detection of the monkeypox virus. The training covers a range of topics from collection and handling of the specimen to RT-PCR testing and reporting of results to inform response and containment strategies.”

Dr Ahmed Ogwell, Acting Director of the Africa CDC, said: “Africa CDC will continue to support the Member States in strengthening their capacity and capability to detect and respond to disease outbreaks. Recently, we have issued a call for more support to the Member States and increased access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to limit the spread of MPXV. The MPXV training and the distribution of test kits are key to expanding MPXV surveillance across the continent.”

The participants are expected to put into practice the skills and knowledge gained from this training to expand MPXV testing and surveillance in their home country. Furthermore, the training workshop will create a network of laboratory experts to collaborate and share expertise and resources in MPXV detection and response.

The training was coordinated and supported through the Africa CDC – Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI). The training workshop targeted 20 participants from 20 African Union (AU) Member States: Benin, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinéa, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia.

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Sterling Bank, NHEA Honour Exceptional Healthcare Providers

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Sterling Bank healthcare providers

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Some healthcare providers who were exceptional during the COVID-19 pandemic have been honoured at the Nigeria Healthcare Excellence Awards (NHEA) with support from Sterling Bank Plc.

At the 8th annual event held in Lagos over the weekend, special recognition awards were given to Medbury Medical Services as the Most Responsive COVID-19 Testing Company of the Year and Seven-UP Bottling Company Plc as the Most Outstanding COVID-19 Consumables Manufacturer of the Year. Other recipients were the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State as the Most Outstanding Genomics Laboratory of the Year and Nassarawa State as the Most Outstanding State for COVID-19 Vaccination.

Speaking on the occasion themed Innovative Healthcare Services in the Era of Change, the Group Head of Health Finance at Sterling Bank, Ms Ibironke Akinmade, explained that the bank recognised and honoured the champions of the COVID-19 pandemic because of the excellent services they rendered while the pandemic was raging in a bid to spur them to do more.

“Sterling Bank is committed to improving access to healthcare for every Nigerian and our flagship offering – digitisation of State Health Insurance Platform – prefers 360-degree solution to help states bring healthcare to every citizen as well as provide a wealth of data to inform policies, planning and strategy, at no initial investment,” she said.

The Divisional Head of Business Growth and Transaction Banking at Sterling Bank, Mr Obinna Ukachukwu, while speaking at the event, had observed that the lender recognised the role that NHEA is playing in the health sector by rewarding excellence and promoting positive outcomes in the sector.

He noted that Sterling Bank, a leading player in the financing of the health sector, decided to come on board to further support the excellence and growth of the sector.

On his part, the Minister of Health, Mr Ehanire Osagie, who was represented by the Managing Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Yaba, Lagos, Dr Adedamola Dada, commended the organisers of the awards and remarked that the purpose of recognising and rewarding healthcare professionals that contributed to efficient and quality healthcare services is to foster excellence and sustain the quality.

“Good healthcare delivery is a key objective of this present administration,” he declared.

Chairman of the Advisory Board of NHEA, Dr Anthony Omolola, while speaking said, “Over the years, NHEA has continued to strive to deliver new and creative ways to honour excellence across the healthcare space. This year’s is not different at all. At these awards, we are paying attention to those who pioneered innovative healthcare services in the era of change.”

NHEA Executive Secretary, Ms Vivian Alkali, expressed the confidence that with Sterling Bank’s partnership and support, subsequent editions of NHEA will meet with greater success.

NHEA is an initiative of Global Health Projects and Resources in collaboration with Anadach Group of the United States of America. It is a yearly event where individuals and organisations are recognised and celebrated for their exceptional contributions to the healthcare sector.

The initiative, through its eminent team’s research and innovation, has continued to encourage improvements and focus on the quality and standard of service provided by various stakeholders in the industry.

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