On February 4, 2021, a release from the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that it along with the African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed to finance the second phase of the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) in Juba, South Sudan. The project comprising infrastructure, furniture and equipment will strengthen preparedness and response capacities of the country for public health emergencies, in line with the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005.

A Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) refers to a physical location or virtual space in which designated public health emergency management personnel assemble to coordinate operational information and resources for strategic management of public health events and emergencies.

The IHR 2005 request that States Parties develop, strengthen and maintain their capacity to respond promptly and effectively to public health risks and public health emergencies of international concern. To achieve the mandates of IHR (2005) and to address emergencies that have health consequences (which may be caused by any or all hazards), many Member States are establishing or improving the PHEOCs to strengthen communications and coordination for effective public health response. In South Sudan, PHEOC is a hub that brings together, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health of South Sudan, all relevant experts, groups and stakeholders involved in preparedness and response. Using an incident management system, the PHEOC promotes structured collaboration and communication, and generates real-time quality information for evidence-based decision-making.

According to the AfDB website, a ceremony regarding the opening of PHEOC in South Sudan. was presided over by Elizabeth Acuei Yol, South Sudan Minister of Health, in the presence of the AfDB Country Manager for South Sudan, the Head of Cooperation in the Embassy of Japan, Nobuhiro Kikuchi, various Ministry of Health officials, the WHO South Sudan staff and the media.

Speaking during the ceremony, the African Development Bank Country Manager for South Sudan, Benedict Kanu, said: “The support provided by the Bank is yet another testimony of the Bank’s growing commitment to closely work with the Government of South Sudan, a valued shareholder of the Bank, and other partners, to assist to build health system capacity for emergency preparedness in the country.” Kanu assured the government of the significance the Bank attaches to human development in its partnership with South Sudan and its donors, and indeed, all other African member countries of the Bank to promote inclusive growth and development on the continent.

As a leading development finance institution, the AfDB has made significant contributions to the COVID-19 response in Africa through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility approved by the Boards of Directors in April 2020. Since the inception of the $4.2 million African Development Bank grant-financed project to support the emergency response for COVID-19 and strengthen the health system capacity for emergency preparedness in South Sudan, considerable progress has been made, including delivering a wide range of essential medicines, lifesaving biomedical equipment and personal protective equipment.

“Having the right infrastructure in place is important. It is equally important to have the right health policy and programs, so that we can better plan, prepare and respond to address everyone’s health,” said Dr. Guracha Guyo, the WHO’s Health Emergency Program Coordinator, on behalf of Dr. Olushayo Olu, the WHO Representative for South Sudan.
The WHO appreciates the generous contribution of the African Development Bank. The expansion of the PHEOC greatly improves the multi-agency coordination and improves operations efficiency through information sharing and joint decision-making, said Dr. Guyo.

This financing of a PHEOC in South Sudan is an example of the AfDB investment in health systems that provide access to quality services for all and health industries that foster economic growth, technological innovation and job creation.

Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Development_Bank#/media/File:Logo_Afrikanische_Entwicklungsbank.svg