US donates aid to SA to strengthen fight against Covid-19

By Karen Singh Time of article published May 8, 2020

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Durban - The United States has committed to donating R410m towards South Africa's fight against Covid-19.

According to US ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, the package includes R250 million through our US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

She said the money was used for surveillance and lab support, support for infection prevention and control, Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), Border health and vaccine preparedness, and research to inform response best practices both in SA and globally.

"R160 million through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support work in water and sanitation, infection prevention and control, supply chain strengthening for Covid-19 commodities, strategic information, surveillance rapid response, case management, risk communication, and public health messaging," she said. 

She explained that US funding will align with the needs of the South African Government.

"We are in constant discussions with them on how to best deploy people, activities, and supplies. Much of this funding according is being allocated to existing local implementing partners. This enhances our ability to address the rapidly changing circumstances and get resources to the field as quickly as possible,” she said. 

She explained that the United States was supporting case-finding and event-based surveillance by helping to train and equip rapid response teams to investigate cases and conduct contact tracing.

“In case management, our support will help to strengthen clinical care while minimizing the risk of onwards transmission to others,” said Marks. 

Risk communications helped to provide the public with reliable, verifiable information to keep everyone informed about how to protect themselves and each other.

In terms of support from the CDC, Marks said two senior epidemiologists provide technical assistance for respiratory disease surveillance, research on respiratory virus transmission, and disease burden. 

“These epidemiologists also assist with assessing vaccine effectiveness and vaccine policy decision-making by providing relevant data to decision-makers in South Africa,” she said.

This is a part of a partnership that the CDC has maintained since 2007 said Marks.  

Since February, the CDC has provided staff to assist the NICD with data capture, data systems coordination, and laboratory support. 

“The CDC has also dispatched 7 epidemiologists to provinces to assist the NDoH and NICD with outbreak response activities including case identification, contact tracing, and pandemic preparedness,” said Marks.

Through the Office of Defense Cooperation, the US also provided 12,400 protective masks to the South African National Defence Force’s South African Military Health Service she said.

A breakdown of the United States 20 staff which the CDC have deployed to assist the DOH and the NICD: 

  •  2 senior epidemiologists with specialization in influenza and respiratory viruses who have supported the NDoH and NICD since 2007;
  • 7 epidemiologists and surveillance experts to the North West, Limpopo, Gauteng, Western Cape, KZN, Eastern Cape and Free State Provinces;
  • 1 laboratory specialist to support the NICD on laboratory strengthening;
  • 1 senior programmer to assist with data systems support;
  • 1 senior epidemiologist to serve on the National Incident Management Team in support of community screening and data integration;
  • 1 data specialist to support implementation of hospital-based data capture;
  • 6 data capturers supporting the NICD on capturing key case management data;
  • 1 Risk Communications Specialist to support the NDoH Communications Unit.

Marks further explained that PEPFAR South Africa was providing key support to ensure continuity of HIV and TB prevention and treatment, during this time. 

In addition, Marks said the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was leveraging existing systems to support modeling, facility preparedness, lab systems, contact tracing and door to door screening, during this critical time. 

“Up to 5400 PEPFAR-supported Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) will integrate door-to-door Covid-19 screening and HIV adherence activities to allow for an immediate and coordinated response,”she said. 

PEPFAR’s long-term efforts to develop lab and clinic systems, modeling and surveillance, and health worker training has proven critical to South Africa’s current COVID-19 response said Marks. 

“Through PEPFAR, the United States has invested more than 80 billion rand in South Africa throughout our 17-year partnership,” she said. 

South Africa is one of over 100 countries to benefit from the United States’ $2.4 billion response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, Marks said American citizens have donated more than $3 billion to populations affected by Covid-19 around the world through private businesses, nonprofit groups, faith-based organisations, and charitable organisations.

“During an April phone call between Presidents Trump and Ramaphosa, President Trump offered additional assistance to support South Africa's efforts to battle the pandemic, building upon 20 years of health and humanitarian support,” said Marks

The Mercury

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