Kenya along with Burundi, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sao Tome and Principe, has been signed up for a new regional health emergency preparedness programme.

The Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience Programme is a $15 million project funded by the World Bank in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) and other health development partners.

Launched in the capital Nairobi on Wednesday, Kenya's Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha said the programme comes at a time when health-related outbreaks are crippling the health system and are being exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

The country has so far recorded about 56 cases of cholera, mainly from some of the counties affected by the floods.

Read: Kenya floods death toll rises to 210 as heavy rains persist"The programme will provide the much-needed platform through which our national and collective problematic outlooks will contribute to the continent's health security," she said.

She also said it would be a stepping stone towards achieving universal health coverage in the country.

Kenya's Health Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Harry Kimtai said the country's priority with the funding will be to ensure the smooth running of our local vaccine manufacturing facility, the Kenya Biovax Institute.

This comes exactly two years after the board of the Kenya Biovax Institute was established, but it will not be operational until 2027.

At the same time Moderna, a biopharmaceutical company that had planned to set up a manufacturing plant in Kenya, suspended its plans last month.

Read: Drugmaker Moderna puts Kenya plant plans on hold"The pandemic tested our preparedness and resilience to the core. This programme is a journey towards fortifying Africa's resilience to enhance cross-border collaboration," said Kimtai.

Igad Executive Director Dr Workneh Gebeyehu stressed the need to bridge the gap between early warning systems and disaster management."We want a future where the pandemic will not cripple our communities," he said.

The launch of the programme is in line with the political declaration on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response adopted last year at the 78th United Nations General Assembly (Unga).

It is also in line with the 2016-2030 African Union's Africa Health Strategy, which includes a clause to support research and development of vaccines, medicines and technologies to improve access to immunisation.

While the World Health Organisation's member states have set an ambitious goal of developing a pandemic treaty after the glaring inequity seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ninth and final round of talks, held in Geneva last Friday, ended without a draft treaty agreement.

Countries disagreed on issues such as vaccine sharing in the event of another pandemic.

At the launch, World Bank Country Director Keith Hansen acknowledged that many countries are not adequately prepared to prevent, protect and respond to emergencies, which are increasing in frequency and intensity."Current plans are outdated and underfunded," he said.

Read: Kenya weather outlook 'dire' as cyclone nears"If the world has to learn one emphatic lesson from the last few years of this century, it is how underprepared we are from the global events and threats, including recent disruptions such as Covid-19 and impacts from extreme weather," he said."We want to approach issues collaboratively. This is a programme that the World Bank will support on a high-priority basis to promote local manufacturing to pave the way for the future," he added.

An article by the African Centres for Disease and Prevention published in the BMJ, says that the hard-won gains made during the Covid-19 pandemic are crucial for countries as they prepare for the future."High-level political commitment at all levels and the co-created respectful, action-oriented partnerships are remarkable in effectively and timely responding to public health emergencies. African health systems must be agile and flexible to accommodate their respective countries' and the continent's emerging and evolving needs," says the researchers. © Copyright 2022 Nation Media Group. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (