African nations have agreed to create a joint centre in Cairo, Egypt, to fight infectious diseases afflicting the continent.
Health ministers approved the plan at a conference held in Cairo on 28-29 June. The African Union also backed the plan at meetings held this week in Libya.
Ahmed Soliman Marai, an advisor to Egypt's health minister, told SciDev.Net that the centre would help monitor and control infectious diseases by acting as a communications hub for information from health agencies across Africa, whose activities it would help coordinate.
He added that the centre will encourage and support research into drugs and vaccines against diseases endemic in Africa such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, filariasis and bilharzia.
The conference of health ministers set up a technical committee to draw up plans for funding the centre and details of how it will work in coordination with existing African and international bodies.
The committee, chaired by Egypt, comprises Algeria (representing north Africa), Nigeria (west Africa), Cameroon (central Africa), Ethiopia and Uganda (east Africa), South Africa (southern Africa) and a representative of the African Union.
Egypt's president, Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, proposed the joint centre during the fourth African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria in January 2005.