Strengthening Global Health Partnerships in Africa

The African continent continues to endure the highest incidence of health emergencies globally, significantly impacting the lives, livelihoods, and economic development of affected communities. Although progress has been made in strengthening health emergency preparedness and response (EPR) systems across Africa, their efficacy has been hampered by a lack of coordination and collaboration between the two key global health actors on the continent: the Africa Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (Africa CDC) and the World Health Organization Regional Offices for Africa and Eastern Mediterranean (WHO AFRO/EMRO).

Responding to calls for coordinated action, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation engaged Dalberg to work through these challenges and establish an Africa CDC and WHO collaboration (the Partnership). As a neutral facilitator, Dalberg’s implementation team was ideally positioned to help navigate complex discussions around roles and responsibilities and resource allocation. The Partnership’s goal is to align the organizations’ approaches to providing EPR support to member states—reducing duplication and ensuring that resources are invested where they are most needed.

At the start of this process, Dalberg supported the development of the 2023–27 Joint EPR Action Plan (JEAP) that prioritizes eight “collaboration areas” addressing the most important gaps in EPR capacity on the continent, including surveillance, readiness, and workforce. A Technical Working Group is responsible for the detailed planning and implementation of joint initiatives in each of the collaboration areas.

To institutionalize the Partnership and ensure its sustainability, Dalberg implemented a joint governance structure and decision-making processes and provided project management support for resource mobilization, communications, monitoring and evaluation, and Technical Working Group activities.

The JEAP was officially launched at the World Health Assembly in May 2023, obtaining commitments from Africa CDC and WHO leadership, donors, and EPR partners. Since that launch, Africa CDC and WHO have jointly presented the JEAP at global and continental convenings including the 2023 Conference on Public Health in Africa and the 78th UN General Assembly.

The Partnership is fully operational, and seed funding has been secured to support scale-up. A permanent Secretariat now governs the Partnership and provides coordination support to partners, while a strong pipeline of funding and partnership opportunities promises to support the future expansion of joint activities under the JEAP. Early EPR efforts under the Partnership have been highly encouraging. For example, the AVoHC-Surge training program—a merger of Africa CDC’s African Volunteer Health Corps initiative and WHO’s Strengthening and Utilizing Response Groups for Emergencies—has already trained 1,350 people in 16 countries to respond to health emergencies and humanitarian crises within 24 to 48 hours from the time of the incident. The partners are now preparing for a continental rollout of the JEAP over the next four years.

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