The United Kingdom(UK) has pledged to  invest up to £20 million in the African Union’s new ‘African Union Covid19 Response Fund’ to tackle coronavirus and save lives. 

British High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Woolley  says that the move  makes the UK the largest national donor to the fund, which was announced by Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and President of the Republic of South Africa last month.

In a statement to ZANIS this evening,  Mr.Woolley explained that the fund  will support African leaders and technical experts to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives in Africa and worldwide. 

He said the  fund will tackle the pandemic by recruiting African health experts and deploying them where they are needed most, strengthening global tracking of the pandemic, combatting potentially harmful misinformation, providing specialist coronavirus training for health workers and making information about the virus more accessible to the public. 

“As the UK faces its biggest peacetime challenge in tackling coronavirus, it’s never been more important to work with our partners in Africa to fight disease.

“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,” said High Commissioner Woolley. 

The disbursement follows discussion between UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge and the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga, from Zambia, in which they discussed the risks the continent faces from the pandemic and how the UK is working with partner countries like Zambia to tackle our shared global goals to overcome this disease. 

Mr.Woolley pointed out that the  new support for the African Union comes after the UK has already pledged over $900 million to the international fight against coronavirus and comes ahead of the UK hosting the virtual Global Vaccine Summit on 4th June, to secure future funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has already saved the lives of millions of children in Africa from infectious diseases .

He further said many countries on the continent are beginning to see an increases in case numbers, presenting a severe risk to fragile healthcare systems which may worsen high prevalence of HIV, malnutrition and other illnesses in parts of Africa may also worsen the impact of the virus.

The contribution to the AU African Union Covid19 Response Fund will support the implementation of the AU’s continental strategy to: (1) coordinate the efforts of AU member states and multilateral and international partners in responding to the outbreak in Africa; and (2) promote an evidence-based approach for surveillance, diagnosis, treatment and control of coronavirus in Africa. 

Besides ,aspects of the strategy supported by the fund will include  the recruitment and deployment of African experts, through Africa CDC’s African Voluntary Health Corps (a roster of 800 skilled volunteers) and tracking the outbreak through effective screening.

The Fund will also look into  contact tracing and information management; combatting misinformation; creating an online community of practice with weekly webinars for African clinicians; publishing technical guidelines in all AU languages as well as creating an Africa Taskforce for coronavirus to co-ordinate response activity, and convening AU member states to agree a continental response.

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