BY LORRAINE MUROMO/OBERT SIAMILANDU
SEVERAL African countries, Zimbabwe included, are set to benefit from a partnership between Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to facilitate screening for COVID-19.
The response involves community mobilisation; advocacy and scaling up of contact tracing.
The partnership will also cover other areas of public health.
The new initiative, launched on Wednesday, comes at a time when Africa is facing vaccine shortages, amid a high level of community transmission in countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Zambia.
John Nkengasong, Africa CDC director, said: “Africa is facing a double-edged challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with health response gaps, and also trying to ensure that the continent prepares efficiently for future pandemics, using lessons from current challenges.”
Zimbabwe has been struggling to roll out massive COVID-19 screening, leaving the majority of the citizens to pay for their own screening.
Africa CDC has been implementing various public health responses to control COVID-19. These include the engagement of community health workers in risk communication and community sensitisation; surveillance activities for early case identification; contact tracing and in facilitating referrals for testing and continuum of care.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC secretary-general said: “What the IFRC and its network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies bring to this partnership with Africa CDC is our unparalleled access to local communities. Our community-based volunteers have the access and trust that are needed to address vaccine hesitancy and sensitise communities about adherence to preventive measures.”
The Africa CDC has been working to support African Union member States to build a wide network of two million community health workers in line with the July 2017 African Union assembly decision.
The collaboration with the IFRC network, which includes 1,2 million Red Cross employees and Red Crescent volunteers across the continent, is expected to strengthen community level interventions and consolidate gains in tackling the spread of the virus, while increasing awareness about vaccine benefits.