A meeting held in Goma by the Democratic Republic of Congo and officials from nine neighbouring countries has resolved to establish an Africa Ebola Co-ordination Task Force to control the spread of the disease.
While the technical and operational component of AfECT is to be hosted at the World Health Organisation sub regional office in Nairobi, its political and advocacy arm will be hosted at the African Union in Addis Ababa.
AfECT will be the second Ebola technical centre since the Centre for Diseases Control already has a similar office in Nairobi.
The AfECT will be managed by the 10 countries in collaboration with WHO and the Centre for Disease Control and will also take over what Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi had achieved through a memorandum of understanding.
Attended by representatives from Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi; Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Central Africa Republic and Zambia, the main intention of the Goma meeting was to come up with a framework to best manage the on-going Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, a push from some Ministers of Health in attendance resulted in an agreement to have the AfECT deal with other epidemics too.
“Initially the purpose of the framework was to enhance co-operation around Ebola. Stakeholders agreed to extend this framework to include other epidemics, such as cholera and measles,” said Collins Boakye Agyemang, communications official at the WHO, Africa Region.
He however, stressed that AfECT’s main role is to get all the nine countries around the DR Congo implement the same Ebola prevention protocols.
The taskforce is expected to improve the cross-border management of Ebola cases, to prevent a repeat of the West Africa outbreak that spread to four countries and affected the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi are better placed to conduct cross-border Ebola case and laboratory surveillance.
They have also committed to communicate with the international community in case an Ebola patient crosses into their countries.
Before the establishment of AfECT, Mr Agyemang said co-operation between DR Congo, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi was reinforced in several instances with memoranda of understanding, which specified areas of co-operation, among them training and information sharing.
“The purpose of the recent meeting in Goma was to extend this framework for co-operation and sharing of information to the other five countries considered to be at risk so as to harmonise efforts, particularly in terms of data collection and sharing,” said Mr Agyemang.