Harnessing Solidarity and South-South Cooperation in Fighting COVID-19

May 8, 2020

Harnessing Solidarity and South-South Cooperation in Fighting COVID-19: Pivotal Experiences Shared between Africa and China in a Global MedixChange webinar on Combatting COVID-19

28 April New York – Over 1,600 health professionals, including Africa Centre for Disease Control focal points (Africa CDC), and health professionals from more than 20 African countries joined a webinar on efforts to curb COVID-19 with their counterparts from China. This knowledge exchange was jointly organized by Africa CDC, The Jack Ma Foundation, Alibaba Foundation, and Alibaba Health as part of the Global MediXChange for Combatting COVID-19 (GMCC) live webinars.

COVID-19 has spread rapidly to almost every corner of the world. Africa CDC data indicates 31,933 COVID-19 confirmed cases and 1,423 deaths in 52 Member States of the African Union (as of 27 April). An urgent response is required across different dimensions including health, development and humanitarian aid. The United Nations Secretary-General has called for all leaders globally to come together and offer an urgent and coordinated global response.

Source: Africa CDC

Webinar speakers included Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC; Dr. Raji Tajudeen, Head of the Division of Public Health Institutes and Research, Africa CDC; Dr. Chen Wang, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and President of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences; and Dr. Yang Sun, President of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital.

Mr. Jack Ma, Founder of the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Group, delivered special remarks as the Guest of Honour from his home in Hangzhou, China. Mr. Ma pointed out that “many countries in Africa have rich experiences in fighting infectious diseases, and Africa has many excellent doctors and their own home-grown solutions”. He reiterated that solidarity and cooperation are key to fighting COVID-19, and it is important that countries learn from each other, and share lessons and experiences in a timely manner. He also mentioned that the solution is not isolation but cooperation, and highlighted the need for leadership, action and efficiency in confronting the Coronavirus.

Mr. Jack Ma joining the webinar from his home in Hangzhou, China. Source: UNOSSC

Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC, spoke about Africa’s three-pillar strategy in combatting COVID-19: preventing transmission, preventing deaths and preventing social harm, and shared that Africa CDC has been working with all Member States, and facilitating exchanges within Africa on COVID-19 responses. Results shared included: 23 countries trained in surveillance; over 4,000 medical practitioners engaged in clinical management discussions; 39 countries trained on infection, prevention and control; supply chain and stockpiles support provided with 1.5 million laboratory tests distributed by Jack Ma Foundation; 42 countries trained in laboratory diagnosis and subtyping; and 26 countries trained on risk communication. Dr. Nkengasong further stressed that African countries need immediate collaborative efforts and strong partnerships to fight COVID-19, as the health systems are fragile, with a focus on accelerated testing of COVID-19 and building contact tracing capacity.

Dr. John Nkengasong. Source: Africa CDC

Dr. Yang Sun (L) and Dr. Chen Wang (R) during the webinar. Source: UNOSSC

Dr. Chen Wang and Dr. Yang Sun shared crucial experiences and policy lessons learned from responding to the immense challenges faced in combatting COVID-19 in China. Dr. Wang shared experiences starting from the early outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, and step-by-step measures taken by authorities to minimize the negative impact of the outbreak. He elaborated on strategies adopted including stay-at-home measures, initial stage testing and tracing, isolation of positive COVID-19 cases, increasing hospital capacities, as well as strong and coordinated community management measures.

Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy-Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) commended such South-South exchanges among developing country policymakers and health professionals and spoke about the importance of the platform provided by Alibaba, the Jack Ma Foundation and the Africa CDC in enabling such discussions. Dr. Wang shared that, during such crises, South-South knowledge sharing has the power of saving lives. She quoted a recent estimate by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) which indicates the possibility of potentially saving up to 3 million people from COVID-19, depending on the kind of response from countries in the region.

Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang during the webinar. Source: UNOSSC

Dr. Wang acknowledged that it was clear from Dr. Nkengasong’s remarks that Africa is indeed inspiring the world, and South-South and triangular cooperation is and will be more important than ever before. She mentioned that UNOSSC promotes cooperation globally and has been mapping good practices of countries in responding to this pandemic and connecting partners to support each other through its platform South-South Galaxy.

A lively and informative Q&A discussion on subjects including indicators considered while unlocking Wuhan, the role of antibody tests in response to COVID-19, measures taken and equipment provided to protect frontline health workers, impact on mental health, and contact-tracing lessons, followed the presentations.

To view the webinar, please visit GMCC.

Participants engaging in discussion during the webinar. Source: UNOSSC