PACT Will Strengthen Africa’s Ability To Deal With COVID-19- Lawanson

June 21, 2020
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In this interview with CHIMA AKWAJA, the Country Head, Mastercard Foundation, Nigeria, Chidinma Lawanson speaks on the continental-wide partnership to accelerate Coronavirus (Covid-19) testing, and treatment of patients as well as support for frontliners in the health sector battling the pandemic, among other issues.

Mastercard Foundation is committing $40 million to address Covid-19 testing in Africa.  How will the money be utilised and shared across the continent?

The Mastercard Foundation is partnering with Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to respond to Covid-19. The Mastercard Foundation is one of several partners involved in this initiative. Our partnership will enable the purchase of one million test kits; training and deployment of 10,000 community healthcare workers and 80 surveillance rapid responders to support contact tracing.

It will also enable the Africa CDC to build its own internal capacity to oversee a continental response to the pandemic. Africa CDC will undertake these Covid-19 response measures in partnership with the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET).

Explain more on this initiative. Who are other PACT partners at the national level?

The Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing or PACT is anchored on the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19. It is endorsed by the Bureau of Heads of State and Government of the African Union to help limit COVID-19 transmission in Africa. PACT will strengthen the capacity to test, trace, and treat COVID-19 cases on the continent. Our partner, Africa CDC, is working with several partners and Member States, Nigeria being one.

Communities across the continent will benefit from PACT in a number of ways: Pooled procurement, storage and distribution of diagnostics and other medical supplies, testing of at least 10 million individuals and, the deployment of one million community workers and community healthcare workers.

Additional workers will enable COVID-19 contact tracing and the deployment of technology platforms that will enhance testing, epidemiological modelling, and critical health forecasting, to support re-opening and recovery of economies.

Has Mastercard Foundation started disbursing the funds and what objectives will the funding and partnership achieve?

The Mastercard Foundation partnership with Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) will enable the following: The purchase of one million test kits, training and deployment of 10,000 community healthcare workers and 80 surveillance rapid responders to support contact tracing. The partnership will also help the Africa CDC to build its own internal capacity to oversee a continental response to the pandemic.

The biggest challenge in combating COVID-19 in Africa is public enlightenment, what is Mastercard Foundation and its partners doing in this regard?

The Mastercard Foundation understands the pressing necessity to increase public awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, we are working with partners to drive Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaigns to create knowledge and awareness of the pandemic in the countries where we work. Collectively we seek to enhance dissemination, understanding and uptake of public health information. These campaigns will support our partners, including government, the private sector, educational institutions, community organizations, and young people, to overcome this global challenge and emerge resilient and stronger.

The June 4 announcement by Mastercard Foundation to deliver 1 million test kits and deploy 10,000 community health workers, is it not late in coming as COVID-19 has been around in Nigeria and Africa since February?

We launched our Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Programme in April 2020. The programme has two main goals. First, to deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders, and students (the partnership with Africa CDC falls within this category). The second is to strengthen the diverse institutions that are our first line of defence against the social and economic aftermath of this disease.

That includes universities, financial service providers, businesses, technology startups, incubators, government agencies, youth organisations, and non-governmental organisations. Mastercard Foundation already has a strong network of partners in key sectors. We are committed to navigating this crisis alongside them in ways that protect their institutional integrity and enable them to deliver solutions to challenges created by this pandemic.

Our partnership with Africa CDC is significant as, together, we will strengthen the continent’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, but more needs to be done. This is why the Mastercard Foundation stands with the Africa CDC and calls on other funders to support PACT.

Beyond COVID-19, are there other initiatives that Mastercard Foundation is involved in Nigeria and Africa?

Our Foundation is one of the largest, private foundations in the world. Its mission is to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. We work with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work.

Mastercard Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management. The Mastercard Foundation is committed to our Young Africa Works Strategy. This is our roadmap for enabling 30 million young people, particularly young women, to access dignified work by 2030. In Nigeria, Young Africa Works aims to see 10 million young Nigerians, the majority young women, in work opportunities by 2030.

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