July and August were an extremely busy period for the emergency preparedness, resilience and response (EPRRteam, who supported the development and delivery of simulation exercise management training at the Africa Union in Addis Ababa, and in Zambia, in collaboration with Africa CDC and the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA).

In addition, at the end of August, the team supported colleagues from the Zambian Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) and other government stakeholders in the review and finalisation of the Zambian Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) Implementation Plan. This is a very important step for colleagues from ZNPHI and for Zambia as a whole. In a recent AU summit address held in Lusaka, President Hichilema of Zambia, stated a ‘call to action’ to strengthen PHEOCs in Zambia and across the continent as a vital step in bolstering public health systems.

Prof. Chilengi (Director General, ZNPHI) attended and gave his remarks on the PHEOC Implementation Plan and reiterated the Zambian President's PHEOC call to action and emphasised the opportunity it presented in terms of political engagement in strengthening public health systems. Following Prof. Chilengi's remarks, all partners present (Africa CDC, WHO and UKHSA) addressed the meeting and reiterated their commitment to supporting the PHEOC implementation plan.

The Implementation Plan outlines the strengthening of the National PHEOC in Lusaka which will oversee and coordinate all national public health emergencies, and the establishment of at least five provincial PHEOCs. These provincial PHEOCs will oversee response at a sub-national level, with an implementation timeline of 2022 to 2026. Over the course of five days, the draft plan was reviewed in detail, with each pillar of the plan being scrutinised in terms of function, objectives, and budget:

  • Strengthening Communication and Technology Infrastructure for the PHEOCs
  • Development and Implementation of Core PHEOC Documents
  • Establishment of Information Systems and Data Standards
  • Develop Capabilities for the PHEOC workforce

Once all members of the review team were satisfied, the plan went to Dr Kapata (EPR Lead, ZNPHI) and Prof. Chilengi for final review and sign-off. The publication of this plan will allow ZNPHI and Zambia to move forward with the strengthening of PHEOCs and consequently allow advocacy and support for further strengthening of public health emergency response in Zambia.

Prof. Chilengi and partners from Africa CDC, WHO and UKHSA, joined by colleagues from ZNPHI and cross-government plan review team

By Liz McGinley and Tracy Ilunga