on Friday, 15 January 2016.

Dear Colleagues,
Welcome to 2016. Here is our discussion topic for January and February 2016:
Who will prevail; microorganisms or human beings?
Since time immemorial microbes haveoccasioned epidemics and pandemics that have
killed millions of people and intheir wake disrupting livelihoods and causing social
and economic disorder thefinancial value of which is impossible to estimate
accurately but must bein zillions of dollars. The recent Ebolaoutbreaks in West
Africa and the devastation and fear they wreaked in thosecountries and round the
world are still fresh in our minds.

Yet as thecollective people of the world we do not appear to respond to
infectiousdiseases threats as we do other security threats. For example, when
terroristsattacked Paris a few months ago, the leadersof the world rapidly convened
and marched shoulder to shoulder in Parisexpressing solidarity and vowing to defeat
them. Last month world leadersgathered again in Paris and civil society was there in
large numbersdemonstrating and expressing anger, over the threat posed by climate
change. Atindividual country level, anyone attempting to clandestinely overthrow
agovernment, very quickly gets picked up by the political surveillance system ofthe
country. In the same countries however, an infectious disease threat isleft to
fester and spread even when the same structures for reporting politicalthreats are
available and could be used for reporting infectious diseasesthreats. This
manifest failure torecognize the serious global security threat posed by microbes is
the subjectof an important report of an independentCommission on the Global Health
Risk Framework (GHRF) coordinated by the National Academy of Medicine of the
USAreleased today under the title "The Neglected Dimension of Global Security:A
Framework to Counter the Threat ofInfectious Disease". The reportis available at
( securitythreat posed by infectious diseases is real and
growing. In the last decadealone we have grappled with influenza pandemics, such as
theSARS, H1N1 in 2009, and most recently, the Ebola in West Africa; not to
mentionHIV/AIDS that alone has caused over 35 million deaths. They have had a
hugeimpact, both in lives lost and social and economic disruption. Humans
discovered antibiotics but microbeshave responded effectively by developing
resistance to them and antimicrobialresistance has become a major global health
challenge today. The situation islikely to get worse. Human populations have
increased tremendously and we areencroaching more and more into the space of
microbes and other wild animals.Most of the new infections have a link to wild
animals. Humans need more foodand are invading the territory of wild life and
rearing domestic animals for food in ways thathave led to epidemics such swine and
bird flu. The misuse of antibiotics inveterinary and human medicine are also a major
contributor to antimicrobialresistance. The GHRF Commissionwhich has deliberated
over the last six months believes that time has come toreverse this neglect and
makes ten wide ranging recommendations touching on theroles of national governments,
communities within countries, organized regionaland sub regional groups. At global
level, a preeminent role has been accordedto WHO as the mandated member of the UN
Family. The office of the UN SecretaryGeneral has role as do the World Bank and IMF
as globally mandated financialinstitutions. Theframework recommended by the
Commission has three key elements:(i) Stronger nationalpublic health capabilities,
infrastructure and processes, built to a commonstandard of International Health
Regulations, and regularly assessed through anobjective, transparent process. The
responsibility of each country governmentis paramount as weakness one country poses
a threat to all countries.(ii) More effectiveglobal and regional capabilities, led
by a reenergised WHO, through a dedicatedCentre for Health Emergency Preparedness
and Response, coordinating moreeffectively with the rest of the UN system and
supported by the World Bank andIMF.(iii) An acceleratedprogramme of R&D, deploying
$1bn per year and coordinated by a dedicatedcommittee of the WHO.What are the
implications of this Commission reportfor Africa? First is a call for mindset change
that prioritises health threatsto the livelihoods of African populations to the same
level as armed threats asboth kill people and disrupt livelihoods. For example, the
response of theAfrican Union to the security threats in Burundi are laudable and we
call forsimilar responses to infectious diseases threats. Second is the commitment
tocomply with international obligations. Africa participated in the adoption ofthe
International Health Regulations in 2005 but complying with them andreporting on
them is weak. A similar situation applies to the reporting on theWHO Code on the
International Recruitment of Health Personnel where Africa ledthe call for this code
but now lags behind other parts of the world incomplying with the code and
submitting implementation reports. The question is:What timely actions do countries
and the region need to take in regard to theimplementation of the recommendations of
the GHRF report? I urge you all to access and read this report and I look forward to a
lively discussion on this important topic with you all in the coming days and

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