Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg

As COVID-19 continues to impact Africa, Bloomberg initiative also bolsters groundwork for future epidemic preparedness systems

In the three months since Bloomberg Philanthropies launched its $40 million COVID-19 Global Response Initiative with partner Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, 31 countries in Africa have been able to deepen and expand their public health efforts to minimize the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies COVID-19 Global Response Initiative is not only supporting these countries in their efforts to contain COVID-19 within their borders, it is also investing in building public health systems to better respond to epidemics that will likely occur in the future.

“While many of the countries that were hit earliest by COVID-19 have seen their cases peak, many countries in Africa are just beginning to see a rapid increase in infections. That’s why Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting efforts to strengthen the response across the continent, including training health care workers, expanding lab capacity, and bolstering public health systems. This urgently important work will reduce the burden on already overwhelmed health systems and save lives, especially in the most vulnerable communities,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former three-term mayor of New York City.

Since the Bloomberg Philanthropies COVID-19 Global Response Initiative began, nearly 6,000 health care workers in Africa have been trained in infection control; laboratory capacity has been strengthened to test for infections in 10 countries; personal protective equipment and locally produced alcohol-based hand-rubs have been secured in nine countries; and trained contact tracing workforces have been significantly expanded in two dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the past three months:

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Together with ALIMA, the Initiative has trained thousands of health care promoters on COVID-19 response measures. Additionally, basic sanitation and hygiene kits, along with protective gear, have been distributed to health centers.

Ethiopia: In partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Ethiopian Medical Association, the Initiative has trained nearly 2,000 health care workers on life-saving infection prevention and control measures, and maintaining essential health services.

Uganda: Utilized epidemic preparedness measures at points of entry to strengthen early and rapid detection of COVID-19 cases, of which over 65% are imported from other countries.

Rapid Response Fund: The initiative deployed $2.9 million in flexible, rapid response funding to 15 countries. These funds allow for early detection of and swift response to infectious disease outbreaks, including COVID-19. In Nigeria, the fund mobilized nearly half a million dollars to support 42 deployments and training of 300 people across 14 states. In Mauritania, the response fund supported WHO country offices to train 84 field epidemiologists, who detected an over 250% increase in total country caseload.

Rapid Mortality Surveillance: Collaborating with global partners including the WHO and Africa CDC, the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative developed a technical package so that governments can conduct rapid mortality surveillance to assess the burden of COVID-19. Rapid mortality surveillance allows governments to better understand how COVID-19 is actually affecting their populations and use these data to tighten or ease public health and social measures.

While ongoing activities in Africa have made significant progress in combatting COVID-19, many countries will continue to experience strain on their health systems, and cases may continue to rise. Sustained support and investment will help African countries manage the COVID-19 pandemic, while they simultaneously deal with other disease outbreaks and public health priorities.

“We are encouraged by the fast action and progress many countries in Africa have had, but we must stay vigilant. I am inspired by the dedication and the hard work health workers throughout Africa are doing to keep people safe, and we are committed to partnering not only for COVID-19, but also to prevent future health emergencies,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President & CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, and former Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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