Background and provenance
To support Africa’s response to COVID-19, the Africa Rapid Grant Fund has supported the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE). The Africa Rapid Grant Fund is supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Newton Fund, South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), and Fonds de Recherche du Québec (FRQ).
Scope of mandate
In the context of SAGE activities, an “emergency” denotes a serious, unexpected, and potentially dangerous situation that has either already caused loss of life, health detriments, property damage, or environmental damage, or has a high probability of escalating to cause immediate danger to life, health, property, or the environment. Most emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, requires urgent, time-sensitive interventions to prevent or mitigate a worsening of the situation. SAGE aims to provide rapid, independent, multi-disciplinary science advice to relevant stakeholders on emergency issues that require strategic attention. SAGE also aims to undertake engagement with relevant stakeholders to create awareness and facilitate resilience in relation to emergencies.
Aims and objectives
- SAGE aims to serve as a think-tank on current or potential emergencies.
- SAGE aims to base its advisories and other outputs on the best available evidence and related data. Where necessary, SAGE shall issue strategic situational reports and precautionary notices / advisories. These reports and advisories shall be made publicly accessible. Where necessary, reports and advisories will be updated on a rolling basis.
- SAGE shall aim to identify knowledge gaps on, and highlight best practices and lessons learnt in relation to current or potential emergencies.
- SAGE shall engage in fore-sighting exercises to identify threats that could lead to an emergency.
SAGE Steering Committee Members
SAGE advisories will be driven by members of the SAGE Steering and Coordinating Committee. Where necessary, SAGE shall co-opt relevant experts to co-author advisories. Such individuals shall be drawn from the memberships of ASSAf, SAYAS (including alumni), South Africa’s statutory Science Councils, Higher Education institutions, and independent research institutions. Where necessary, co-option may occur outside these entities and beyond South Africa. SAGE Advisories shall be based on consensus, not necessarily unanimity.
- Prof Jerome Amir Singh (Health and Ethics)
- Dr Caradee Wright (Environmental Health)
- Dr Marizvikuru Manjoro-Mwale (Rural Development)
- Dr Keagan Pokpas (Chemistry)
- Dr Adeyemi O. Aremu (Indigenous Knowledge Systems)
- Prof Pradeep Kumar (Pharmacy and Pharmacology)
- Dr Aliza le Roux (Natural and Agricultural Sciences)
- Dr Sershen Naidoo-Heal (Education)
SAGE outputs (1 July 2021 – 31 March 2022)
(i) PUBLIC INTEREST ADVISORIES
- Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) Advisory on the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in KwaZulu-Natal in June-July 2021: mitigating a potential emergency. SAGE Sub-committee on Foot and Mouth Disease (Marufu MC, Karama M, Mwale-Manjoro M, Mapiye C, Singh JA, Naidoo S, Le Roux A). 12 July 2021. https://www.assaf.org.za/files/2021/1SAGE%20advisory%20FMD%20-%2012%20July%202021%20revised.pdf.
- Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) Situational and Strategic Advisory on Social and Political Instability in South Africa: July 2021. (Singh JA, McQuoid Mason DJ, Gray G, Pillay B, Manjoro M, Aremu A, Pokpas K, Naidoo S, Kumar P, Le Roux A, Pillay A). 14 July 2021. https://www.assaf.org.za/files/2021/1%20SAGE%20Situational%20and%20Strategic%20Advisory%20on%20Social%20and%20Political%20Instability%20revised%20-%2014%20July%202021.pdf.
- Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) Situational Analysis and Strategic Advisory on Farming and Food Security In South Africa in the Aftermath of Widespread Public Violence and Looting in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng between 10-14 July 2021. SAGE Sub-Committee on Food Security (Tatsvarei S, Mwale-Manjoro M, Mapiye C, Marufu MC, Singh JA, Letty BA, Naidoo S, Wright C, Aremu A). 30 July 2021; revised 30 August 2021. https://www.assaf.org.za/files/2021/1%20SAGE%20Food%20Security%20Advisory%20revised%20-%2030%20Aug%202021.pdf.
- Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) Advisory on the use of deep-sea seismic surveys to explore for oil and gas deposits in South African waters. SAGE Sub-committee on Marine Ecology and Risk Mitigation (le Roux A, Singh JA, Ansorge I, Bornman T, Elwen S, Gammage L, Naidoo S, Rajkaran A, Vrancken P, Kumar P, Manjoro M). 10 January 2022. https://www.assaf.org.za/files/2022/SAGE/SAGE%20Advisory%20on%20Shell%20Seismic%20Survey.pdf
- Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) Sub-committee on Marine Ecology and Risk Mitigation (represented by Singh JA, le Roux A, Naidoo S). Response to EnerGeo Alliance (EA) and African Energy Chamber (AEC) – Advisory on the use of deep-sea seismic surveys to explore for oil and gas deposits in South African waters – 1 February 2022. https://www.assaf.org.za/files/2022/SAGE/Response%20to%20EnerGeo%20and%20AEC%20correpondence%20-%201%20Feb%202022%20-%20final2.pdf.
(ii) PUBLISHED SCHOLARSHIP
- Popkas K, Naidoo S, Kumar P, and Singh JA. Vaccine hesitancy: The role of the medical fraternity in debunking vaccine myths. SAMA Insider June 2021: 8-9. http://www.samainsider.org.za/index.php/SAMAInsider/article/viewFile/116/89
- Moon S, Armstrong J, Hutler B, Upshur R, Katz R, Atuire C, Bhan A, Emanuel E, Faden R, Ghimire P, Greco D, Ho CW, Kochhar S, Schaefer GO, Shamsi-Gooshki E, Singh JA, Smith MJ, Wolff J. Governing the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator: towards greater participation, transparency, and accountability. 2021 Dec 10:S0140-6736(21)02344-8. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02344-8. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34902308.
- Singh JA, Kochhar S, Wolff J, et al. WHO guidance on COVID-19 vaccine trial designs in the context of authorized COVID-19 vaccines and expanding global access: Ethical considerations, Vaccine 2022 (online first). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2022.02.038.
- Singh JA. Seismic surveys: what constitutes meaningful consultation? Quest: Science for South Africa 2022; 18(1). http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11911/234.
- Singh JA, Le Roux A, Naidoo S. Marine seismic surveys for hydrocarbon exploration: What’s at stake? S Afr J Sci. 2022;118(3/4), Art. #13420. https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2022/13420.
International guidance documents
- Singh JA. (drafter on behalf of the World Health Organisation Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator Ethics and Governance Working Group). COVID-19 vaccine trial designs in the context of authorized COVID-19 vaccines and expanding global access: ethical considerations. WHO Policy Brief. 26 November 2021. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/349693.
- Singh JA. COVID-19 Vaccines and Global Governance: How Structural Factors Dictate Procurement and Vitiate Patient Autonomy. In: Grogan J and Donald A (eds). Routledge Handbook on Law and the COVID-19 Pandemic. Routledge: 2022: 18-30.
Webinars and Events
Why Environmental Management Must Become The New Normal
The Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) webinar series aims to raise awareness on the importance of emergency risk mitigation in the context of environmental management. The series will address the following questions:
– How can we prevent future pandemics and human human-driven environmental emergencies?
– How should we manage the environment in a more pro pro-active and integrated fashion?
Programme facilitators: Prof Aliza le Roux and Dr Sershen Naidoo
Why Environmental Management Must Become The New Normal: Webinar 1 (29 July 2021): https://youtu.be/G8OPOmQkNCE
Speakers and topics
- Lahcen EL Youssfi, Sultan Moulay Slimane University, Morocco – Integrated Water Resources Management and Ethics
- Anusha Rajkaran, University of Western Cape, South Africa – Managing and measuring the health of mangrove forests in a changing world
Why Environmental Management Must Become The New Normal: Webinar 2 (5 August 2021): https://youtu.be/1WuM6XFiZLQ
Speakers and topics
- Chantell Witten, University of Free State, South Africa – South Africa’s Healthy Eating Guidelines
- G Mukwada, University of Free State, South Africa – Environmental management as the new normal
- Mahlodi Tau, South African National Biodiversity Institute (untitled).
- Olusola Ololade, Centre for Environmental management – Pathway towards climate mitigation and resilience requires a transdisciplinary approach
Why Environmental Management Must Become The New Normal: Webinar 3 (12 August 2021): https://youtu.be/M7z61WGk5G8
Speakers and topics
- Liezel Lues, University of the Free State, South Africa – Accountable green leadership and strengthening of democracy in SA
- Samuell Adelabu, University of the Free State, South Africa – The Future is now
- Grey Magaiza, University of the Free Stare, South Africa – Participatory environmental in the new form
Why Environmental Management Must Become The New Normal: Webinar 4 (19 August 2021): https://youtu.be/WMiYtBZIlv4
Speakers and topics
- Tolu Oni, University of Cambridge, England; University of Cape Town, South Africa – Urbanisation, climate change and health- a planetary syndemic
- Wanda Markotter, University of Pretoria, South Africa – A holistic approach to pandemic preparedness (and prevention)
- Singh JA. SAGE overview – National Disaster Management Forum Meeting, Pretoria, South Africa, Sept 2021 (online meeting).
- Pokpas K. SAYAS linkage with the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies. SAYAS Annual Meeting, November 2021 (online meeting).
- Singh JA. SAGE overview. Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Advisory Forum, Cape Town, South Africa, November 2021 (online meeting).
Papers presented, Panel participation, Chairing
- Singh JA (Panelist). World Health Organization Ad Hoc Consultation on COVID Vaccines. Methodological approaches to assess variants effect on vaccine efficacy, effectiveness and impact. (session topic: What are the benefits and challenges of generating randomized evidence during vaccine deployment? Geneva, Switzerland, February 2021 (online event).
- Singh JA (Panelist). Expert Briefing: Policy Challenge II – WTO & COVAX (Master in Public Policy, Oxford University, UK), May 2021 (online event).
- Singh JA (Panelist). International AIDS Society (IAS) and UNAIDS Satellite Conference. An HIV vaccine: who needs it? July 2021 (online event).
- Singh JA (Session Co-chair). Pandemic research: Drawing from Lessons Learnt During the Sisonke Study. South African Medical Research Council Bioethics Advisory Panel Seminar. September 2021 (online event).
- Singh JA (Programme Chair). Disaster Risk Management Fire & Emergency Services Assessment. South African Local Government Association (SALGA)-Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Seminar: Disaster Risk Management Fire & Emergency Services Assessment, November 2021 (online event).
- Singh JA (Panelist). Conversations at the Intersection of Ethics and Policy. World Health Organisation Pandemic Ethics & Policy Summit, December 2021 (online event). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-SpMod2vYA.
- Singh JA (Panel session chair). Is there a case to be made for COVID-19 Vaccinations in Children? South African Medical Research Council Bioethics Advisory Panel Seminar. December 2021 (online event).
- Singh JA (Panelist). Research and ethics. World Health Organisation Global Research and Innovation Forum, Geneva, 24-25 February 2022 (online event). https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2022/02/24/default-calendar/covid-19-global-research-and-innovation-forum-an-invitation-to-the-research-community