Welcome remarks to the African Union Emergency Meeting on the Coronavirus Disease Outbreak

Submitted by elombatd on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 17:05

Your Excellency Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki,

Your Excellency African Union Commissioner of Social Affairs, Ms Amira Elfadil Mohammed Elfadil,

Your Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Idriss Farah, Ambassador of the Republic of Djibouti and Chair of the Peace and Security Council, African Union,

Your Excellency, Max Limoukou, Minister of Health of Gabon, Vice Chair, Governing Board of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention,

Honourable Ministers, dear partners and colleagues:

Good morning!

I am pleased to join you for this important meeting on the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, outbreak, and I thank the African Union for organizing this timely event.

The very dramatic evolution of outbreak in China, Asia and all other continents is of major concern for all of us in the continent.

We are very pleased to work with partners like AfCDC, AFENET, Alima, Resolve, Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, USCDC, China CDC, USAID, Public Health England, sister UN agencies to support member states to rapidly improve their preparedness

Question – why are there no cases in Africa? Some assume it is an inability to detect.

WHO AFRO is monitoring the alerts and we are reassured that 28 AFRO countries have detected 211 suspected cases, 205 tested and discarded.

We encourage all Member States to rapidly provide information on such alerts; as this helps all of us working to control the outbreak.

It is extremely important to arrive at a state of readiness so that each country will be able to detect any imported case of COVID-19 so that countries can take appropriate measures.

This month, WHO collected readiness information from all 47 AFRO countries.

It is encouraging to note that some intervention areas are doing well - coordination, surveillance, logistics systems, laboratory, points-of-entry screening: this is because of the investments building on Ebola preparedness.

We need to urgently step up and improve on the gaps identified in case management, including isolation facilities; infection, prevention and control; risk communication; investigation and response to alerts.

I want to thank countries for their responsiveness, with partners’ support as we started with 2 countries having laboratory testing capacities but now we have 26 countries with capacities to test for COVID-19 in the past 3 weeks; this is partly built on the already-established influenza lab network.

We are anticipating that all 47 countries in the AFRO region will have laboratory capacities by the end of February 2020. We thank NICD in South Africa and IP Dakar for their support in initially testing samples for countries.

We have to date deployed 45 experts in 10 high-risk countries; other WHO staff in all countries are engaged in this support, especially WHO Representatives leading and coordinating country partners.

Training at regional and country levels has been a priority, we are working with Africa CDC in such areas as Laboratory, Surveillance, Point of Entry, IPC, Case Management, Risk Communication.

This outbreak once again highlights the need for investment in preparedness, through the International Health Regulations (2005).

Almost all (46 of 47) Member States in the Region (AFRO) have undergone joint external evaluations of IHR capacities.

To address identified gaps, 32 national action plans for health security have been developed. However, a key challenge is mobilizing domestic and international funds for implementation.

This highlights the importance of health security as a central part of resilient health systems.

Finally, I would like to invite you to our High-Level Meeting, jointly organized with Morocco and Rwanda, on Diplomacy for Health Security and Emergency Preparedness, which will be held in Marrakesh on 24 to 26 March. At this meeting, we hope to bring together ministers of finance, foreign affairs and health to intensify commitment and action.

I look forward to a very productive meeting, concrete decisions and to intensifying work with partners in support of our Member States.

We are absolutely committed to this.

Thank you.