New Africa CDC Head Gene Kaseya’s Challenge: Improving Public Health in the ‘Post-COVID’ Era

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi hugs Jean Kaseya, the new Executive Director of the Africa CDC.

Nine months after John Nkengasong left the Africa CDC to lead PEPFAR, the African Union elected the director general of the continent’s leading public health agency. The Director is tasked with finding new ways to engage continental and global leaders in public health in Africa. Challenges of the post-COVID era.

A new secretary-general was appointed African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). He is Gene Kaseya, 53, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a seasoned international health professional with past experience working for the World Health Organization, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

Confirming the appointment, Kaseya immediately underlined His intent to work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) on issues ranging from expanding universal health coverage in Africa to strengthening regional manufacturing capacity to disease surveillance in the post-COVID period. .

“Today, after confirmation, my first call was with Dr. Moeti, Regional Director of the WHO/AFRO Region, to reaffirm my commitment to work closely with WHO to address health issues in Africa. ‘, he said, with Africa CDC and WHO discussing the degree of autonomy the Africa CDC should have in declaring a regional public health emergency last summer.

Kaseya is appointed by African heads of state after elections held on the sidelines of the 36th Session of the African Union held in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, February 18-19. A candidate from the DRC and one other candidate from Guinea were finalists for the position, with a total of 180 candidates vying for the position.

Kaseya’s victory was seen as a diplomatic coup for Kinshasa. Kinshasa has repeatedly faced deadly Ebola epidemics over the past five years, but in the eastern region he is also facing a proxy war with M-25 rebels.

In a statement by the Office of the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government explained Kaseya’s appearance was “an epilogue to the long, secret diplomatic struggle waged by President Felix Tshisekedi for six months.”

Find new opportunities to advance public health priorities

But now that Kaseya has been named to the position, he will face a daunting array of challenges in advancing Africa’s “new public health order” according to the Africa CDC strategy that has been refined over the past few months, he said. Javier Guzman, Director of Global Health Policy at the Global Development Center said. Among the many other challenges facing Africa in trade, finance, climate change, and diplomacy, Kaseya said that in the post-COVID era, he will seek new ways to help the CDC and its public health priorities stand out. need to find

A seasoned public health professional with experience at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nkengason has given African institutions unprecedented prominence during the pandemic. He held weekly press conferences on the pandemic and positioned the agency as a leader in the deal to finance and distribute COVID vaccines and later manufacture them locally. -Enhanced disease surveillance and reporting capabilities, not just for CoV2, but more broadly.

But COVID-19 is no longer the priority it used to be, Guzman said. Instead, many countries are now reeling from burgeoning fiscal and debt crises and multiple other competing priorities. This includes promoting an African Continental Free Trade Area, a key agenda item at the 36th AU General Assembly, and addressing the growing impact of climate change and the war in Ukraine on food security.

“Dr Kaseya brings a clear and focused vision to the agenda of the Africa CDC, ensuring financial sustainability, building efficient operations, proactively resetting the continental/regional balance, and facilitating change. The African CDC must secure its place within the global health structure that is in line with the global health structure. It will have the difficult task of fulfilling its promises as an autonomous public health agency in its own right.

From General Practitioner to Africa CDC

The new Executive Director of the Africa CDC, DRC national Jean Kaseya, is chatting with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi.

With a mix of national and international public health experience, Kaseya has a similar background to Nkengasong when she took up a position with the Africa CDC in 2017.

Kaseya started his career as a General Practitioner at the General Hospital in Kinshasa, DRC. In June 1998, he became head of the Kahemba Health Zone in the Bandundu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just northeast of the capital, Kinshasa. The following year, he became Director of Immunization for his DRC Ministry of Health, and was responsible for national and regional efforts in planning, implementing, supervising and monitoring large-scale campaigns for polio, measles, tetanus, yellow fever and vitamin A supplementation. , supported the district level.

In this capacity, he also assisted national, regional and district levels with planning, supervision, monitoring and evaluation. Immunization expansion program promoted by WHO, will use the momentum of the smallpox eradication effort to ensure that children around the world have access to life-saving basic vaccine kits. Participation in national conferences and technical committees brought him great national attention.

In July 2000, Kaseya became Senior Advisor on Health Matters to the President of the DRC. In that role, he advised the President on health and youth issues, including social development, social protection, and youth empowerment.

“I had to formulate a presidential vision and draft presidential speeches related to these sectors. I had to go through relevant documents, and I had to attend national and international conferences to discuss the president’s vision for health, education and youth empowerment,” Kaseya said. increase.

He has also worked with the US CDC, USAID, Global Fund and UNICEF to lead multi-million dollar projects on malaria, HIV/AIDS and primary health care. At Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Kaseya served as country representative and head of a project implementation consortium of Gavi-funded NGOs, including the Red Cross and Rotary.

In January 2008, Kaseya joined WHO as Technical Coordinator for the WHO’s Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP). The following year, he joined The Vaccine Alliance, He Gavi, as Senior Program Manager, leading his GAVI program for African countries.

Most recently, he worked for the Clinton Health Access Initiative as Senior Country Director for the DRC and as Global Team Leader for the initiative’s Africa Health Screening Platform/European Investment Bank project. In this role, he was responsible for increasing access to high quality, reliable and affordable diagnostic services in sub-Saharan African countries.

From Nkengason to Kaseya

When John Nkengason officially left Africa CDC In May 2022, after the U.S. Senate confirmed it would lead the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Nkengason described the Africa CDC as now a “formidable” public health agency.A few weeks later, the Executive Council of the African Union adoption Amendments to the African CDC as an Autonomous Health Agency.

The promotion of the African CDC to a more independent status has not been without controversy. Internal memo distributed by WHO concerns raised On the proposal to empower African health institutions and to declare a regional ‘Continental Security Public Health Emergency’ as part of institutional empowerment.

While the process of appointing a new Executive Director was underway, the Center’s Acting Director, Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, led the Center in formulating its next public health order”.in The strategy will, among other goals, strengthen African public health institutions, strengthen the public health workforce, expand local manufacturing of health products, increase domestic investment in health, and promote action-oriented and respectful partnerships. is intended to promote

Ogwell Kenyan epidemiologist, He reportedly sought a permanent appointment as CDC director but was unable to secure one. Still, the pillars of the “new public health order” are expected to guide Kaseya-led leadership.

Image credit: President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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