The Ebola virus left the African continent in shock, killing over 11,000 in the worst outbreak since the emergence of HIV/AIDS (Mezher, 2015). Although thousands of volunteers, international peace-keepers, and physicians collaborated to fight Ebola, more efficient overseeing bodies could have minimized the scale of this disaster. In the wake of tragedy, however, the African continent recently took a major step forward in its public health policy by instituting the African Centers for Disease Control (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015).

One of the major issues regarding the Ebola outbreak was the lack of communication between emergency states in Africa, as well as miscommunication between international peace-keeping bodies. The Ebola outbreak was only declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization in August of 2014, over four months after the virus had begun to spread (Butler, 2015). The passive nature of the WHO’s relay of information to the United Nations, the overseeing body in such international medical conflicts, caused late involvement from the United States Center for Disease Control (Mezher, 2015). This deadly chain of events caused a lagged deployment of volunteers and decreased the vital information available to local African leaders (Schnirring, 2015).

Even after the crisis was declared, the uneven distribution of volunteers between African states led to inefficiency on the diseased front. The mobilization of NGOs, such as Doctors without Borders, remained lacking due to little communication between the African Union and the deploying nations (Schnirring, 2015). Countries such as Liberia, Sudan, and Guinea did not have the resources, financing, or awareness campaigns to keep them afloat (Schnirring, 2015).
In an effort to expedite future communication between the African continent and international resources, the African Union Commission and the United States Center for Disease Control established the African Centers for Disease Control (ACDC). Signed into effect in April of 2015, the body was officially launched on January 31, 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The African CDC functions as “a deployable force ready to serve Member States during future health emergency responses on the continent,” according to a United States CDC statement. The ACDC will not hold in-house laboratories, but rather function on Event-Based Surveillance (EBS) to gather data from its five regional centers to identify urgent public health threats.

Although the establishment of a communicative African public health entity is a progressive move, officials worry that this investment will once again fall victim to discrepancies in international relations. Muhammad Ali Pate, former apportion of state for health in Nigeria, was a member of a panel that critiqued the WHO’s response to the Ebola outbreak. Pate believes

the ACDC is succumbing to the similar issues, including the overwhelming bureaucracy of the African Union, the inability of the CDC to find well-qualified epidemiologists, and the lack of funding (Yasmin, 2016).

The budget for the African CDC between July of 2015 and December of 2016 was a mere $6.9 million and funded only 11 employees. Financial experts comparing the African CDC to the European Centers for Disease Control (ECDC), which the ADCD is modelled after, say that an effective budget for a center of this size and reach is about $60 million. However, the budget for the African Union is only a little over $300 million, giving the ACDC extreme financial strain. The ACDC is an excellent possibility for a new channel of information between the United States and the African Union, and the ACDC’s focus is not limited to Ebola. The yellow fever outbreak of Angola and DRC in January of 2017, the existing burden of Malaria in South Africa, Cholera, Dengue Fever, and Chikungunya demand well-regulated dispersal of public health information on the African continent (World Health Organization). However, the African Union must be cautious when fostering this important organization’s initial financial growth to make sure the ACDC can launch necessary projects later on. The AU is currently hosting a panel to raise finances from external organizations, composed of representatives from the EU, UNICEF, and the US CDC, but the panel has seen limited success (Butler, 2015).

Without smart investment and proper communication with the United Nations, the ACDC may face too many obstacles to become a well-functioning entity. If the African Union manages to escape the bureaucracy of the United Nations’ recent healthcare regulations, the ACDC can function as a collector of information, as well as an implementer of vaccinations and useful public health precautions.

References

Butler, Declan (2015, April 24). African CDC needs more money and a strong leader. Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.17409 Disease Outbreak News. World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.afro.who.int/en/disease-outbreaks/outbreak-news.html

Mezher, M. (2015, May 12). African Union, WHO Team Up to Launch African CDC. Regular Affair Professionals Society (RAPS), Retrieved from http://www.raps.org/Regulatory-Focus/News/2015/05/12/22146/African-Union-WHO-Team-Up-to-Laun ch-African-CDC/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). African Union and U.S. CDC Partner to Launch African CDC . Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0413-african-union.html

Schnirring, L. (2015, April 13). US, African Agreement Formalizes Creation of African CDC. Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Retrieved from http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2015/04/us-african-agreement-formalizes-creation-african-cdc

Reuters. (2015, April 14). Africa to open Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NY Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/africa-open-centers-disease-control-prevention-article-1.21 84670

Yasmin, S. (2016, June 1). Africa Starts its Own Disease Control Agency. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/africa-starts-its-own-disease-control-agency/

Posted by Ishu Sivakumar

Ishu is a Freshman pursuing a Molecular and Cellular Biology major and a Bioethics Minor. As a writer for HMR’s Global Health Team, she is passionate about reporting the international variables of healthcare and the impact of foreign affairs on healthcare policy effectiveness. Ishu’s interest in Global Health extends to her involvement with the Hopkins Model UN Team, her position on the MEDLIFE board, and her involvement with Cancer Metabolomics research at the Medical Institute. Ishu is excited to continue to explore global healthcare when she studies abroad at Oxford University her sophomore year, and she ultimately hopes to become a surgeon.

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