The Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to cooperate with the African Union Commission in the creation of a CDC in Africa, according to a memorandum signed Monday.

The U.S. CDC announced the cooperative agreement in an April 13 news release following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Nkosazana Diamini Zuma, chairperson of the commission.

The African CDC is to be launched later this year with the establishment of an African Surveillance and Response Unit, which is to include an Emergency Operations Center.

The surveillance and response unit is to provide technical expertise and response coordination during emergencies. Like the U.S. CDC, there are to be epidemiologists at the unit who will perform disease surveillance, investigation and tracking of infection trends. The new unit will also provide response expertise during large outbreaks.

The surveillance and response unit is to be established in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, the seat of the AU, and five Regional Collaborating Centers are to be located in the five regions of the African Union.

According to the news release, the need for an African CDC was recognized in July 2013 at the African Union Special Summit on HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria in Abuja, Nigeria.

The need for an African CDC became even more evident when the African Union sent more than 800 medical volunteers and public health responders to fight the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from September 2014 to February 2015.

Once the African CDC is established, these volunteers are to compose a deployable force ready to serve African Union members in future health emergencies.

Two public health experts from the U.S. CDC are to be co-located at the African Union to serve as long-term technical advisers to the African CDC. In addition, the U.S. CDC is to support fellowships for 10 African epidemiologists to help staff the African CDC Coordinating and Regional Collaborating Centers.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said, “The West African Ebola epidemic reaffirmed the need for a public health institute to support African of health and other health agencies in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to any disease outbreak. This memorandum solidifies the commitment by the United States to advance public health across Africa and global health security.”

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