UK invests £20m in AU COVID-19 Response fund

THE United Kingdom says it will invest up to £20 million (K450 million) in the new ‘African Union Covid19 Response Fund’ to tackle coronavirus and save lives.

According to a statement from the British High Commission in Lusaka, this makes the UK the largest national donor to the fund, which was announced by Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and President of the Republic of South Africa last month.

It stated that it would support African leaders and technical experts to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives in Africa.

It stated that the fund will tackle the pandemic by recruiting African health experts and deploying them where they are needed most, strengthening global tracking of the pandemic, combatting potentially harmful misinformation, providing specialist coronavirus training for health workers and making information about the virus more accessible to the public.

Announcing the funding on today, International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:“As the UK faces its biggest peacetime challenge in tackling coronavirus, it’s never been more important to work with our partners in Africa to fight disease.
No one is safe until we are all safe and this new funding and support for African leadership will help protect us all – in the UK, Africa and around the world – from further spread of the virus.”

And in welcoming the announcement British High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Woolley said today’s announcement followed discussion between UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge and the AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga, from Zambia, about the risks the continent faces from the pandemic and how the UK was working with partner countries like Zambia to tackle shared global goals to overcome this disease.

“Zambia, as host of the Southern Africa Regional Collaborating Centre for the Africa Centre for Disease Control, plays a vital role in shaping the AU’s response across the region. Today’s announcement brings the total UK aid contribution to fighting coronavirus globally to £764 million, around K17 billion,” he said.

High Commissioner Wooley stated that the new support for the African Union comes after the UK has already pledged over $900 million to the international fight against coronavirus.

“The UK is also using its existing aid programmes to help vulnerable countries in Africa to strengthen their health systems. It also comes ahead of the UK hosting the virtual Global Vaccine Summit on 4th June, to secure future funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has already saved the lives of millions of children in Africa from infectious diseases,” it stated.

It stated that many countries on the continent were beginning to see exponential increases in case numbers, presenting a severe risk to fragile healthcare systems.

“The high prevalence of HIV, malnutrition and other illnesses in parts of Africa may also worsen the impact of the virus. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are on average just two doctors for every 10,000 people, compared to 28 per 10,000 in the UK.
If healthcare systems become overwhelmed, the worldwide spread of the virus will be difficult to slow, risking new waves of infection. The UK’s contribution to the Africa anti-COVID 19 fund will prevent this by working in partnership with the AU to help fight the virus, strengthen healthcare systems and save lives in the AU’s 55 member states,” it stated.

“Today’s announcement brings the total UK aid contribution to fighting coronavirus to up to £764 million ($935.6 million). This money is helping to find a vaccine, providing vital humanitarian relief, feeding the world’s poorest people, strengthening global healthcare systems and managing the risk of a global economic downturn.”

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