Wellcome and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) have awarded a grant of EUR 2.26 million to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to support the COVID-19 response by African Union Member States. The grant was awarded as part of the DFID/Wellcome Epidemic Preparedness for Coronavirus grant and it is to support implementation of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak.
Dr Josie Golding, Epidemics Lead at Wellcome said: “Having research at the centre of the COVID-19 response is critical if we must end the pandemic. COVID-19 has reached every corner of the world and is overwhelming even the most advanced health systems. Through our partnership with the DFID, Wellcome is supporting the important work of Africa CDC and countries across Africa to deal with the rapid spread of COVID-19.”
Africa recorded its first COVID-19 case on 14 February 2020. While the pandemic affected and killed thousands of people in Asia and Europe, Africa’s leaders met and developed a comprehensive response strategy as a continent. The strategy was later approved and adopted by the Bureau of the African Union Heads of State and Government during its special meeting on 26 March 2020, as the overarching framework for Africa’s COVID-19 preparedness and response.
The strategy aims to enhance coordination, collaboration, cooperation and communication on COVID-19 by Member States and partners. It focuses on six major technical areas and has guided Africa CDC in its support to Member States on the outbreak. The technical areas are laboratory and subtyping, surveillance and enhanced port of entry screening, infection prevention and control, clinical case management, risk communication, and supply chain management.
“It is vital that the world comes together, especially to support countries that have weaker health systems, limited resources, and vulnerable populations. Only through global collaboration can we hope to save lives and protect populations against the tragedy of future outbreaks of this unprecedented global health threat,” said Dr Golding.
“Our primary strategy for COVID-19 in Africa is to limit transmission and minimize harm, and this requires an integrated approach involving different partners. This fund will enhance the efforts of Africa CDC in strengthening institutional capacity across Africa to respond effectively to COVID-19 and other disease threats,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.
The fund will be managed, on behalf of Africa CDC, by the Institute Pasteur Dakar, Senegal, which currently co-leads the laboratory and subtyping working group of the Africa Taskforce for Novel Coronavirus (AFTCOR). The institute has led several studies to isolate viral pathogens in Africa, and it was the first to isolate the arbovirus, which causes yellow fever.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is at a stage in Africa that significant efforts must be made with the leadership of Africa CDC and AFTCOR to limit its spread. In such a context, the scaling up the testing strategy in African countries will play a vital role in flattening the epidemic curve. As the co-chair of the laboratory technical working group, I can say that the Wellcome and DFID funding is not only timely but it’s instrumental in winning the battle against COVID-19,” said Dr Amadou Sall, Director, Institute Pasteur Dakar, Senegal.
The current grant will support direct technical assistance to Member States in the six strategic technical areas. Specific activities will include specialized training in the different aspects of the response; exchange of data, knowledge and information; and stockpiling and distribution of essential commodities needed by Member States.
“Africa CDC is very grateful to Wellcome and DIFID for this grant. The Institute Pasteur Dakar has been instrumental in the fight against COVID-19. Africa CDC will continue to work closely with the institute to support many countries across Africa,” said Dr Nkengasong.