AU, Africa CDC chart new path for public health

African Union (AU) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Tuesday opened the first International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA 2021).

Mr Nekerwon Gweh, Communication & Media Engagement, Africa CDC, said participants at the conference being held virtually in Ethiopia, would discuss how to accelerate progress against COVID-19 and chart a new path for public health on the continent.

He said the conference, which had over 10,000 participants from 140 countries, would also address the latest COVID-19 research as the world grappled with the emergence of Omicron.

Gweh said the three-day conference, which started Dec. 14 and runs till Dec. 16, would feature presentations from African Heads of State, dignitaries and health experts.

“CPHIA 2021 comes at a critical time for Africa and the world. COVID-19 has strained health systems globally, and with dangerously limited access to vaccines across Africa.

“It has laid bare deep inequities in access to healthcare and scientific innovations.

“Less than 20 African countries met the global goal of vaccinating at least 10 per cent of the adult population by Sept. 30,” he stated.

He said while nearly 90 per cent of high income-countries met this target, as of Dec. 3, only seven per cent of the African population had been fully vaccinated.

He added that many countries faced a surge in new infections and the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern Omicron.

Prof. Senait Fisseha, CPHIA 2021 co-chair and Director of Global Programmes, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, said CPHIA 2021 created a platform that would allow the continent to usher in a new era for science, partnership and innovation.

“The hope is that this will become the preeminent annual health gathering in Africa, where policymakers, researchers, advocates, community organisations and more come together to learn, address challenges and chart a path forward together.

“There are major changes ahead for health on the continent, and this is just the beginning,” Fisseha said.

CPHIA 2021 Co-Chair/Vice-Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity, Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, said Africa had some of the most sophisticated research institutions and talented scientists in the world, who had monitored COVID-19 and shared their knowledge.

Binagwaho said, “CPHIA 2021 will provide the platform to both highlight their incredible contributions and allow for strengthened collaboration across sectors so we can better respond to current and future health crises and achieve health equity.”

Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said while African leadership in addressing COVID-19 had been extraordinary, the pandemic had also underscored what the continent had long known to be true.

“We must urgently re-imagine the approach to public health in Africa.

“The first international conference on public health in Africa will be groundbreaking.

“By bringing together the brightest minds on the continent to share new insights and lessons learned, we will capitalise on this unprecedented momentum and create a new public health order for Africa,” Nkengasong said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that CPHIA 2021 is a virtual event and is free for all participants.

NAN also reports that the conference will feature seven scientific plenaries, eight parallel sessions, and more than 40 side events that focus on the African Union’s new public health order to meet aspirations of Agenda 2063.  (NAN)