Pandemic influenza preparedness in the WHO African region: are we ready yet?

Journal Article


Journal Title

BMC Infectious Diseases

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

BioMed Central


University of Cape Town

Background Prior to the 2009 pandemic H1N1, and the unprecedented outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) caused by the H5N1 virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) called upon its Member States to develop preparedness plans in response to a new pandemic in humans. The WHO Member States responded to this call by developing national pandemic plans in accordance with the International Health Regulations (IHR) to strengthen the capabilities of Member States to respond to different pandemic scenarios. In this study, we aim to evaluate the quality of the preparedness plans in the WHO African region since their inception in 2005. Methods A standard checklist with 61 binary indicators (“yes” or “no”) was used to assess the quality of the preparedness plans. The checklist was categorised across seven thematic areas of preparedness: preparation (16 indicators); coordination and partnership (5 indicators); risk communication (8 indicators); surveillance and monitoring (7 indicators); prevention and containment (10 indicators); case investigation and treatment (10 indicators) and ethical consideration (5 indicators). Four assessors independently scored the plans against the checklist. Results Of the 47 countries in the WHO African region, a total of 35 national pandemic plans were evaluated. The composite score for the completeness of the pandemic plans across the 35 countries was 36%. Country-specific scores on each of the thematic indicators for pandemic plan completeness varied, ranging from 5% in Côte d’Ivoire to 79% in South Africa. On average, preparation and risk communication scored 48%, respectively, while coordination and partnership scored the highest with an aggregate score of 49%. Surveillance and monitoring scored 34%, while prevention and containment scored 35%. Case investigation and treatment scored 25%, and ethical consideration scored the lowest of 14% across 35 countries. Overall, our assessment shows that pandemic preparedness plans across the WHO African region are inadequate. Conclusions Moving forward, these plans must address the gaps identified in this study and demonstrate clarity in their goals that are achievable through drills, simulations and tabletop exercises.