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COVID-19: AU sets up Continental Fund to fight disease

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The African Union (AU) together with Heads of State of the African countries have decided to set up a Continental Anti-COVID-19 Fund with a seed money of $12.5 million to help with the fight against the pandemic.

The decision was arrived on March 26, following a teleconference held by the Bureau of the AU Heads of State and governments on the deadly COVID-19 pandemic to develop a coordinated African response to curb and reverse the spread of the virus in Africa.

The teleconference meeting had the Malian President; Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, President of Kenya; Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Félix Tshisekedi and the President of Egypt; Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, and Dr. John Nkengasong of CDC also participated in the meeting.

President of AU, Cyril Ramaphosa in a communique issued said the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched public health systems beyond limits and caused an enormous global economic, social and humanitarian meltdown, for which reason, the continental coordinated response is important to arrest the rapid spread of the disease.

According to him, poverty, poor sanitation, an existing disease burden, overstretched health systems and extreme urban population density on the continent meant that the pandemic could explode in an even more catastrophic way than had been seen thus far in Africa, hence the need for urgent action in order to stem the tide.

“The AU, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and all health institutions should direct their efforts at stopping the spread of the virus,” President Ramaphosa stressed.

Establishment of the Anti-COVID-19 Fund was also recommended by the AU Centre for Disease Control (CDC) after it anticipated shortage of medicines and vaccines as factories were closing down in many countries on the continent and others were retaining supplies for their own consumption.

Dr. John Nkengasong, Head of CDC told the Bureau of Heads of State that the rapid spread of the COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health disaster that must be critically looked at.

The CDC noted that they are severely under-funded and want African Union member states, the international community and philanthropic entities to contribute to the fund.

“In this regard, member states of the bureau agreed to contribute an amount of $4.5 million towards boosting the capacity of the CDC,” CDC said in the communique.

Due to that, the Bureau underscored the vital importance of coordinating efforts to increase global production and improve the availability of medical products and equipment.

The Bureau said given the limited health infrastructure in Africa and the reality that most of the pharmaceuticals and medical supplies consumed on the continent were imported, they called on the international community to encourage open trade corridors, especially for pharmaceuticals and other health supplies.

The Bureau further urged the G20 to immediately provide African countries with medical equipment, test kits and protective gear to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, to provide economic stimulus package that included relief and deferred payments.

They also called for waiver of all interest payments on bilateral and multilateral debt and the possible extension of the waiver to the medium term in order to provide immediate fiscal space and liquidity to governments.

It also urged the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), African Development Bank (AfDB) and other regional institutions to use all the instruments available in their arsenal to help mitigate against the scourge and provide relief to vital sectors of African economies and communities.

While commending the efforts of the Committee of African Health Ministers in rallying support to curb further spread, the bureau paid tribute to the courageous efforts of all medical and healthcare officials on the continent engaged in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The bureau urges all citizens of Africa to abide by national measures implemented to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the communique emphasised.

 

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