The UK government on Thursday pledged to work with the African Union (AU) to curb the spread of coronavirus in African countries through funding and technical expertise.
Apart from an investment of up to £20 million in the AU’s ‘Africa anti-COVID-19 fund’ to tackle coronavirus and save lives, the UK government has also promised to help train African health experts to tackle the pandemic.
The AU Chairperson and President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, spoke on the fund according to a statement by the UK Embassy on Thursday.
The statement said recruited African health experts would be deployed to where they are were most needed, to strengthen global effort to track the pandemic.
Also, the experts would help in combating potentially harmful misinformation, providing specialist coronavirus training for health workers and make information about the virus more accessible to the public.
About 800 skilled African expert volunteers would be recruited and deployed through Africa CDC’s African Voluntary Health Corps to track the outbreak through effective screening, contact tracing and information management.
They will also help in combatting misinformation; creating an online community of practice with weekly webinars for African clinicians; publishing technical guidelines in all AU languages; creating an Africa task force for coronavirus to co-ordinate response activity, and convening AU member states to agree a continental response.
The UK International Development Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said it was important to work with partners in Africa to fight diseases, even as the UK faces its biggest peacetime challenge in tackling the virus.
“No one is safe until we are all safe and this new funding and support for African leadership will help protect us all – in the UK, Africa and around the world – from further spread of the virus,” she said.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said the truly global scale of the current crisis meant that international cooperation and solidarity was more important than ever.
The £20 million UK funding contribution to the AU, the High Commissioner said, would provide important additional support to Nigeria and other countries across Africa.
She said the contribution was also a testament to the UK government’s resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria in their collective challenge to defeat COVID-19.
The announcement followed calls by the UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga and AU Commissioner for Social Affairs Amira El-Fadil.
They discussed the risks Africa faces from the pandemic and how the UK was working with partners on the continent to tackle these shared global crisis.
The new support for the AU is coming after the recent pledge by the UK government of over $900 million to the international fight against coronavirus.
The UK government said it was also using its existing aid programmes to help vulnerable countries in Africa to strengthen their health systems.
Besides, the virtual Global Vaccine Summit is scheduled for June 4, to secure future funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has already saved the lives of millions of children in Africa from infectious diseases.
With many African countries experiencing increases in COVID-19 cases, the people are exposed to severe risks to their fragile healthcare systems.
The high prevalence of HIV, malnutrition and other illnesses in parts of the continent, the statement said, may worsen the impact of the virus.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the report said there were on average just two doctors for every 10,000 people, compared to 28 per 10,000 in the UK.
“If healthcare systems become overwhelmed, the worldwide spread of the virus will be difficult to slow, risking new waves of infection.
“The UK’s contribution to the Africa anti-COVID 19 fund will prevent this by working in partnership with the AU to help fight the virus, strengthen healthcare systems and save lives in the AU’s 55 member states,” the statement said.
The latest announcement brings UK’s total aid contribution to fighting coronavirus to up to £764 million ($935.6 million), according to the statement.
The Fund will help to find a vaccine, provide vital humanitarian relief, feed the world’s poorest people, strengthen global healthcare systems and manage the risk of a global economic downturn.