The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC) has charged Nigeria and other African governments to wean the public health system away from donor addiction, identifying five steps to reconfigure those structures towards self-reliance.
The body in its first issue for the year groused over how overexposure to foreign aid almost ditched Africa in a global race against COVID-19, exposing the fragility and downsides of international cooperation.
The centre wants African leaders to honour their commitments to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to the health sector, as they agreed to do in 2001, lamenting that spending on health across the continent ranges from 0.1 percent to 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
It is seeking that national public-health institutions, such as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Zambia National Public Health Institute in Lusaka are strengthened to function better, given their crucial role in prevention, detection and response to public health threats.
Also, ACDC is pushing for the acceleration of cross-border research and development to fix many supply deficits facing health systems on the continent.
Africa currently imports 70 to 90 percent of its drugs, with a very poor biotechnology sector. For comparison, China and India, with comparable populations, import 5 percent and 20 percent.
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There is also a severe shortage of human resources as indicators show there are currently only around 1,900 epidemiologists in Africa, far fewer than the 6,000 needed, as stipulated by the Global Health Security Agenda.
Investments are also needed in early-warning systems as well as building centralised governance to coordinate pandemic responses across borders.
The continent struggled to secure medical supplies and vaccines as donors’ priorities blocked foreign aid, despite achieving impressive feats with genomic surveillance in the early part of the pandemic.
More than 70 countries imposed restrictions on the export of medical materials including the raw materials needed to make diagnostics during the early months of the pandemic. The continent didn’t start procuring medical supplies at a pace that better met demand until the African Union established the Africa Medical Supplies Platform in June 2020.
Leaders of African countries are still desperately trying to access COVID-19 vaccines. Around 47 percent of people have been fully vaccinated globally, with many countries progressing to the rollout of booster doses.
Yet, Africa is still struggling, with only about 7 percent of eligible people fully vaccinated.
“Ultimately, Africa’s dependence on the outside world sustains a lack of confidence in Africa — both within and outside the continent. Certainly, Africa’s successes in the COVID-19 pandemic have not been reported in the mainstream media in a way that could enable the world to learn from them. Instead, the conversation has focused mainly on whether problems with data collection, demographics, climate or other factors could explain why far fewer cases and deaths have been reported than epidemiologists and others predicted,” co-authors Christian Happi, director, African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) and John Nkengasong, director, ACDC wrote.