Africa’s fight to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic received a boost after the Mastercard Foundation announced it had committed $40 million to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT).
The funds will be used to purchase 1 million test kits, as well as train and deploy 10,000 community healthcare workers and 80 surveillance rapid responders to support contact tracing, the Foundation said in a statement.
The announcement is welcome news as public health experts recently sounded a warning over the low supplies of COVID-19 testing kits in Africa.
The testing capacities of African countries have been limited due to international competition for test kits and poor global coordination of resources. This has forced different countries to implement various testing strategies.
Under the PACT initiative, the Africa CDC is working with Member States and several partners to support pooled procurement, storage and distribution of diagnostics and other medical supplies; testing of at least 10 million individuals; and deployment of one million community workers and community healthcare workers.
The Foundation added that the funds will also strengthen the Africa CDC’s capacity to oversee a continental response to the pandemic.
Africa CDC will undertake the COVID-19 response measures in partnership with the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), according to the Foundation.
Africa has so far reported lower total infections than other continents with this phenomenon attributed in part to the swift and decisive interventions by governments. However, another attribution is the low testing rate across the continent leading some to speculate that the numbers could be higher than thought.
Some experts fear that the early success by African nations in containing the spread of the virus could be negated by the lack of supply of testing kits.
Africa CDC Director John Nkengansong said that Africa needed greater cooperation with all stakeholders as the pandemic was still on the rise in the continent as evidenced by the daily figures being released.
We need to equip, deploy and train more healthcare workers as quickly as possible, and we expect that there will be more cooperation and solidarity through PACT,” Nkengasong said.
Mastercard Foundation President and CEO Reeta Roy praised the pan-African response to COVID-19 led by Africa CDC and regional organizations noting they created a clear plan and targets to deliver a robust health response and save lives.
The Mastercard Foundation stands with the Africa CDC and calls on other funders to support this excellent plan. Fighting this pandemic requires all of us to coordinate our efforts and work together,” Roy said.