US to Support Center for Disease Control in Africa

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The United States Government and African Union have signed a memorandum of understanding in which the US has pledged to support with experts and equipment the establishment of Africa’s Center for Disease Control (CDC).

At a recent signing ceremony held between US Secretary of State John Kerry and African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Washington, D.C., Kerry said the establishment of a CDC in Africa should not be predicated upon Ebola, but should cope with health threats of every kind and enable countries throughout the region to share information and build their capacities to prevent, detect, and treat outbreaks of epidemic diseases. 

“Under the new memorandum,” said Kerry, “Our CDC will provide expert technical help to support surveillance and response units and an emergency operations center as well as provide fellowships for African epidemiologists who will provide their services to the new center in Addis Ababa.”

Recalling the presence of Ebola in West Africa and other parts of the world, Mr. Kerry indicated that the disease is not withering away by accident but due to the assistance the United States and other international partners provided to affected countries that overcame the epidemic.

“Early on, the African Union deployed medical personnel and helped to coordinate a very effective response. President Obama dispatched 3,000 American troops to build treatment centers and assist in training health workers. And all told, my government contributed more than $1 billion to ease the crisis, and today we continue working closely with all the parties. And I’m pleased that in a few minutes we’re going to sign the Memorandum of Cooperation in support of the AU’s very bold plan to establish an African version of the American Centers for Disease Control,” he noted.

He stressed that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa which extended in part to other countries, including the United States is a test, cautioning people to be vigilant to prevent another outbreak as the worst is falling behind.

For her part, AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma  said the AU’s decision to form an African Centre for Disease Control is aimed at strengthening the capacities of the African countries to combat diseases, sharing information, build collective capacities not only against Ebola, but also HIV, TB, malaria, and many other diseases.

“The Memorandum of Understanding between the AU and the U.S. Government on this will assist the early operationalization of the Centre for Disease Control with lessons from the current Ebola outbreak,” she stressed.

Dr. Dlamini-Zuma acknowledged the role of the United States in the fight against the Ebola virus that devastated the West African region, especially Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and admonished the US Government to keep up until the disease is totally defeated.

The two leaders reflected on the last US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, D.C., the Power Africa announced by President Obama and the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (GOA), which Mr. Kerry said President Obama and the US State Department are committed to seeing the results to impact the African continent.

During the US-Africa Summit last August, President Obama announced US desire to invest US$33 billion in the economy of Africa, noting that the continent has the potential for growth and there is a high need for United States businesses to begin coming there to form part of the economic competition.

In their exchanges, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma reminded the US of its promise of the power project in Africa and the need to add technical vocation to African universities to provide skills for the rapidly growing youth population.

At the same time, Secretary Kerry called on African leaders and people to take advantage of the opportunities at hand to help especially the youthful population to develop in order to create a brighter future for the continent.

The terrorist activities on the continent involving Boko Haram and Al-Shabab formed part of the discussion and Mr. Kerry assured that the US Government will help African led troops to fight the Islamic militants by providing logistical support.

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