Health officials have announced plans for a new Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) to be based in Africa to serve the continent with expertise and support to deal with disease outbreaks.
They will partner with their US CDC counterpart to establish the centre.
The idea for an African CDC first came to light at the 2013 African Union (AU) Special Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Abuja, Nigeria. If Ebola wasn’t the specific catalyst for forming the African CDC, the epidemic definitely sped up the timeline, US health officials said.
The African CDC will initially set-up shop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is home to the AU, and should happen later this year.
Soon after, five regional centres will open at undetermined locations across the continent. Field epidemiologists will staff each location and ‘will be responsible for disease surveillance, investigations, analysis and reporting trends and anomalies,’ the US CDC said in a statement.
In the event of a health emergency – such as Ebola – the office in Addis Ababa will act as a central command post, organising and deploying teams of medical workers.
Some of that disease surveillance and emergency dispatching is already happening, says Dr. Thomas Kenyon, Director of the US CDC’s Centre for Global Health. The African CDC will ‘take advantage of existing structures to make it additive to what’s already there,’ he said.
To help make this happen, the US CDC is donating both brainpower and troops on the ground, and help in the African CDC’s long-term, strategic planning. It will also embed two public health leaders at the temporary headquarters in Addis Ababa, and about 10 to 12 epidemiologists and support staff.
The CDC already trains hundreds of African epidemiologists each year, Kenyon says, and the establishment of an African CDC will help coordinate that force.
‘I think we’re all going to have to do our part,’ Kenyon says, ‘but the leadership and real commitment will have to come from African governments themselves.’