Wellcome and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) have awarded a grant of €2.26 million to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to support COVID-19 response in Africa.
This was disclosed in a statement posted on Africa CDC website on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
It said that the grant was awarded as part of the DFID/Wellcome Epidemic Preparedness for Coronavirus grant and to support implementation of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr Josie Golding, Epidemics Lead at Wellcome, said having research at the centre of the COVID-19 response was critical if the world must end the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has reached every corner of the world and is overwhelming, even the most advanced health systems.
“Through our partnership with the DFID, Wellcome is supporting the important work of Africa CDC and countries across Africa to deal with the rapid spread of COVID-19,” Golding said.
The virologist said it was vital that the world collaborate, especially to support countries that had weaker health systems, limited resources and vulnerable populations.
“Only through global collaboration can we hope to save lives and protect populations against the tragedy of future outbreaks of this unprecedented global health threat,” Golding said.
Also, the Director of Africa CDC, Dr John Nkengasong, said the primary strategy for COVID-19 in Africa was to limit transmission and minimise harm, which required an integrated approach involving different partners.
“This fund will enhance the efforts of Africa CDC in strengthening institutional capacity across Africa to respond effectively to COVID-19 and other disease threats,” Nkengasong said.
He disclosed that the fund would be managed, on behalf of Africa CDC by the Institute Pasteur Dakar, Senegal, which currently co-leads the laboratory and subtyping working group of the Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus (AFTCOR).
Nkengasong said the institute had led several studies to isolate viral pathogens in Africa, and was the first to isolate the airbovirus, which caused yellow fever.
“Africa CDC is very grateful to Wellcome and DFID for this grant. The Institute Pasteur Dakar has been instrumental in the fight against COVID-19.
“Africa CDC will continue to work closely with the institute to support many countries across Africa,” Nkengasong said.
He said the current grant would support direct technical assistance to member states in the six strategic technical areas.
According to him, specific activities will include specialised training in different aspects of the response; exchange of data, knowledge and information, and stockpiling and distribution of essential commodities needed by member states.
Also, Dr Amadou Sall, Director, Institute Pasteur Dakar, Senegal, said the COVID-19 pandemic was at a stage in Africa that significant efforts must be made with the leadership of Africa CDC and AFTCOR to limit its spread.
“In such a context, scaling up the testing strategy in African countries will play a vital role in flattening the epidemic curve.
“As the co-chair of the laboratory technical working group, I can say that the Wellcome and DFID funding is not only timely, but it’s instrumental in winning the battle against COVID-19,” Sall said.
Africa recorded its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 14, which made African leaders to meet and develop a comprehensive response strategy for the continent.
The strategy was later approved and adopted by the Bureau of the African Union Heads of State and Government during its special meeting on March 26, as the overarching framework for Africa’s COVID-19 preparedness and response.
The strategy aimed to enhance coordination, collaboration, cooperation and communication on COVID-19 by member states and partners.
It focussed on six major technical areas and had guided Africa CDC in its support to member states on the outbreak.
The technical areas are laboratory and subtyping, surveillance and enhanced port of entry screening, infection prevention and control, clinical case management, risk communication, and supply chain management.
By Oluwafunke Ishola