WASHINGTON, March 18, 2021 – The network of African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and its partners, including the World Bank, today presented a new report which aims to help strengthen the role of public health institutions in reducing the transnational risks of transmission of infectious diseases in Africa and, in particular, in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Entitled Disease Surveillance, Emergency Preparedness and Response in Eastern and Southern Africa: A Situational Assessment , this new report, funded under the Korea / World Bank Partnership Facility, recalls that while the continent’s integration efforts have effectively boosted local economies, they have at the same time increased the risks associated with communicable diseases. Hence the need to consolidate regional disease surveillance systems and emergency response capacities. The report highlights the key role of regional coordination in spotting the first signs of an outbreak and taking action wherever it is needed. In order to preserve the health of Africans and the rest of the world’s population, continental institutions must be able to quickly detect an infectious outbreak and act effectively at the slightest warning, before the threat spreads.
Set up by the Africa CDC with the support of a project financed by the World Bank(Regional Investment Funding Project in Africa CDC), the Regional Integrated Surveillance and Laboratory Network (RISLNET) was designed to make the most of Africa’s limited public health resources. It does this by harmonizing laboratory systems, building on the strengths of leaders in the region, and integrating national capacities into broad networks operating under the auspices of the Africa CDC and the African Union (AU ). This device is expected to play a decisive role in reducing the risk of the spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, between AU member states. Based on the concept of global health (“One Health” approach), the RISLNET facilitates close collaboration between national public health institutions,
The report presents an action plan to extend RISLNET, already operational in Central Africa, to other regions.
“RISLNET is a flagship initiative of CDC Africa, currently implemented in Central Africa . The findings of this report are timely in providing a roadmap for its deployment in East and Southern Africa, with financial support from the Africa CDC Regional Investment Finance Project , says John Nkengasong, CDC Director. Africa . This initiative is perfectly in line with Africa’s desire for integration and the continental free trade area project. “
Laboratory networks in East Africa have strengthened their clinical and analytical capacities at the level of each country by promoting transnational collaboration, thus demonstrating the value of a device like RISLNET. Thanks to the project of networking of public health laboratories in East Africa (EAPHLN, according to the English acronym), the health authorities of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have acquired a network of 40 well-equipped structures, with trained staff and strong diagnostic and monitoring capacities. The EAPHLN project significantly improved cross-border disease preparedness and response capacities while increasing the impact of national facilities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically demonstrates how the undetected transmission of pathogens from one country to another can turn a local infectious outbreak into a regional emergency, or even a global crisis ,” said Deborah Wetzel, director of regional integration in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank .Only stronger national and regional integration will give us the weapons we need to fight the current pandemic and the epidemics to come. This particularly welcome report provides us with crucial elements to deploy an interconnected network aimed at detecting, tracking and combating any outbreak of infection in Africa. It analyzes in detail how to optimize Africa’s public health resources and provides tools to African countries and their development partners to strengthen regional epidemiological surveillance systems on the continent. “
The current pandemic has led the authors of the report to insist on the investments necessary in the medium and long terms to build a global institutional framework to monitor the risks of an epidemic outbreak in Africa in order to better contain and treat them. The countries of East and Southern Africa have not all adopted the same mechanisms for strategic planning, surveillance and reporting and do not all have the same capacities in terms of laboratories and human resources.
The report puts forward five main recommendations for the Africa CDC: i) make the RISLNET network operational in East and Southern Africa within 12 months; ii) strengthen regional and continental laboratory networks by mapping capacities and defining standard guidelines to strengthen diagnostic and strategic planning resources; iii) develop the capacities of institutions and staff in testing, quality control, biosecurity, sample processing and information management; iv) consolidate national, regional and continental epidemiological surveillance networks by contributing to the creation of a single digital data platform and, at the same time, by developing communication and data analysis skills; and (v) develop preparedness and response plans covering several sectors and different risks and organize regular simulation exercises at all levels in each of the Member States of the sub-region.
Source: World Bank