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Enhancing science preparedness for health emergencies in Africa through research capacity building
  1. Sam Kinyanjui1,2,
  2. Sharon Fonn3,
  3. Catherine Kyobutungi4,
  4. Marta Vicente-Crespo4,
  5. Bassirou Bonfoh5,
  6. Thumbi Ndung’u6,
  7. Nelson Kaulukusi Sewankambo7,
  8. Abdoulaye A Djimde8,
  9. Oumar Gaye9,
  10. Tobias Chirwa10,
  11. Eustasius Musenge11,
  12. Alison Elliott12,13,
  13. Damalie Nakanjako7,
  14. Dixon Chibanda14,
  15. Gordon Awandare15
  1. 1Training, Centre for Geographic Medicine Research Coast, Kilifi, Kenya
  2. 2Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  3. 3Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg-Braamfontein, South Africa
  4. 4African Population and Health Research Center, Nairobi, Kenya
  5. 5Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Cote d'Ivoire, Abidjan, Lagunes, Côte d'Ivoire
  6. 6Africa Health Research Institute, Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
  7. 7Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda
  8. 8Pharmacy, Malaria Research and Training Center, Bamako, Mali
  9. 9Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal
  10. 10School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
  11. 11School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand Faculty of Science, Johannesburg, South Africa
  12. 12Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe, Wakiso, Uganda
  13. 13London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  14. 14College of Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
  15. 15West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, University of Ghana College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Accra, Ghana
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sam Kinyanjui; skmuchina{at}

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With more than 9.3 million cases and 480 000 deaths recorded to date,1 COVID-19 pandemic has put global emergency preparedness and the capacity of national health systems to predict and respond to major emergencies under a sharp scrutiny. The response to the pandemic is focused on testing, case management and control measures such as personal hygiene, quarantine and social distancing. However, in most African countries, as elsewhere, these measures are not backed by reliable context-specific data. Instead, they are largely dependent on epidemic curves from China and Europe which appear to differ from those in sub-Saharan Africa. Given the massive economic and social disruptions occasioned by the control measures, governments and other stakeholders are desperate for accurate real-time data on the pandemic’s progress and to inform intervention strategies. Furthermore, scarcity of medical and laboratory resources due to increased demand globally coupled with international travel restrictions has forced countries to look inwards for local innovations and adaptations in COVID-19 testing options and interventions, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Consequently, attention has turned to the contribution of local researchers in the pandemic response and by extension, countries’ science preparedness. With respect to health emergencies, science preparedness can be defined as ‘a collaborative effort to establish and sustain a scientific research framework that can inform and enable emergency planners, responders and the whole community to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from major public health emergencies and disasters’.2 As such, science preparedness is an integral part of emergency responsiveness despite receiving less attention than health service preparedness. Although researchers, research support personnel, research infrastructure and mobilisable resources form the core of science preparedness, mounting a robust science-backed emergency recovery response entails complex interplay between multiple elements and actors. As illustrated in figure 1, mechanisms to expedite ethical approval of …

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