The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), comprising 250 institutions worldwide, including United Nations Agencies, international and national non-governmental organisations, public health institutions, academia and highly specialist networks, marks its 20th anniversary on 28 April 2020. This is a significant and unprecedented landmark for multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaboration for international outbreak response. The network has stood the test of time and significantly contributed to combating highly formidable newly emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, with the most recent ones including large outbreaks of Ebola virus disease, Zika fever, and COVID-19 pandemic.
In collaboration, and supported by the WHO, GOARN constitutes a unique asset to much needed global health security. It supports public health emergencies around the globe by the deployment of experts to empower national teams on the ground often in remote, difficult to access and poor–resourced areas, provides expertise and training to aid outbreak responses, risk assessments, operational planning and identification of needs, addresses research gaps, and contributes to the development of state-of-the-art diagnostic and epidemiological tools needed for outbreak preparedness, response, and control.
GOARN platform provides an opportunity to articulate the African voice on epidemic-prone viral diseases, and particularly to address needs for integrated and African-innovative approach to research and development of strategic priorities to effectively address epidemic crises, early detection of public health threats, delivery of timely alert systems and capacities to mobilise and provide adequate outbreak response measures rapidly.
NICD is proudly and fully engaged with GOARN from the outset of its first activities, which started 20 years ago. For the NICD and South African public health, this important and historic moment as it represents our long-standing partnership with GOARN. GOARN contributes to the role NICD is playing as a leading public health institute in Africa, as exemplified by its role in establishing and operationalisation of NICD participation in international Marburg and Ebola outbreak responses, staff training, assistance in listeria outbreak in South Africa, and provision of consultation and advice during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic