The 9th annual African Partnership Outbreak Response Alliance (APORA) conference, designed to support efforts to collectively respond to infectious disease outbreaks in Africa, concluded at the end of the third and final virtual seminar Oct. 7.
“The last APORA engagement in November 2019 featured an exercise on emergency operation centers in response to pandemics,” said Col. Jonathan Craig Taylor, command surgeon, U.S. Africa Command. “How little did we guess that just a few months later many of us would be employing many of those lessons learned in the first pandemic that this world would face in almost 100 years?”
Ivorian Brigade Gen. Dowlo N’Dri Athanase Yao, President of APORA, opened the first virtual seminar Sept. 23.
Yao, through translation, mentioned that participants “must build a solid foundation for APORA, and we know that can’t be done alone. We need collaboration, efficient collaboration with partners that have already proven their ways.”
Online discussions were held among healthcare professionals and leaders from more than a dozen participating African countries. In addition, international and interagency partners were invited to participate, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program.
Topics included threats and opportunities in the COVID-19 environment, best practices in prevention and response to COVID-19, biosecurity threat reduction, and disease management during COVID-19.
“What we learn and teach each other is the best processes of how to construct these plans,” said Taylor, mentioning that AFRICOM constructed COVID-19 plans by pulling elements of other plans together into an initial response plan. “So when COVID, or maybe the next challenge comes along, we are ready.”
Participants also shared current guidelines on COVID-19 prevention and treatment, and identified and aligned best practices among partner nations.
“This was the first time in many of our lives where we’d seen the whole world affected almost all at once by a single disease,” Taylor said. “APORA has played a very key role as we continue to build our partnerships in this conference as we share our best practices and we try to strengthen our global partnership.”
APORA began in 2014 with 12 countries to mitigate the threat of emerging and re-emerging pathogens in Africa due to lack of early warning detection and response. There are 26 African countries participating in APORA events, and membership is open to any African nation. APORA members are currently developing a manual of best practices, and have expanded activities to include table-top exercises and training in public health emergency operations.
APORA’s motto is “forward together” and speaks to the member nations’ solidarity in preventing and responding to infectious diseases which know no boarders.