Africa urged to set up 'mini-CDCs' to combat future outbreaks

By being better prepared for future outbreaks, the region may be able to limit the devastation wrought on its economies by diseases.
By being better prepared for future outbreaks, the region may be able to limit the devastation wrought on its economies by diseases.PHOTO: REUTERS

JOHANNESBURG (BLOOMBERG) - African nations are being urged to establish their own public health institutes to help identify and contain future disease outbreaks.

"We cannot prevent the emergence of outbreaks, but we can prevent their spread," Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong said in an online briefing on Thursday (Aug 12) as he encouraged member states to establish their own public health institutes, or what he referred to as "the equivalent of a mini-CDC".

By being better prepared for future outbreaks, the region may be able to limit the devastation wrought on its economies by diseases.

Last year, sub-Saharan Africa recorded its worst contraction on record from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and is poised to be the world's slowest-growing region in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund.

"On current forecasts, per capita GDP in many countries is not expected to reach pre-crisis levels until the end of 2025," the IMF said in an April report.

"Limited access to vaccines and the region's lack of fiscal space are expected to weigh on the outlook."

Mr Nkengasong comments come as Guinea, which has battled an Ebola epidemic in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, also reported its first death of the Marburg virus, a close cousin of Ebola that killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

"It just suggests to you that these disease threats are now all over us and it's just a matter of time before we see an outbreak that leads to an endemic disease or a pandemic," he said.

The issue will be one of the main items on the agenda ahead of the first international conference on public health in Africa scheduled for December.