In these early days, I have been strengthened by the commitment that the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health- the Minister, the Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary to developing a vibrant and effective NCDC...
Just over 2 months ago, I had the great honor of being appointed by Mr. President to the role of National Coordinator/ Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), our national public health institute. Before my appointment, I had followed closely, developments in the Nigerian public health sector and had called for a health sector that puts the population’s health at its heart. While the appointment came as a surprise, I accepted it with a huge sense of responsibility.
In these early days, I have been strengthened by the commitment that the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health- the Minister, the Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary to developing a vibrant and effective NCDC in order to assure the country’s health security. I am grateful for the work of my predecessor, Professor Abdusalam Nasidi who, together with other colleagues, laid the foundation for NCDC. These circumstances have provided me an excellent foundation on which to build. .
In my first few weeks, I have taken time to try and understand the system from an internal perspective. I have found a small but excellent team, totally committed to our mandate of protecting the health of Nigerians, despite the obvious fact that they are stretched rather thin. As a team we are identifying some gaps that need to be filled, and we are working to rapidly build up the capacity of our staff to reach their full potential.
We have some valuable national assets in the centres at Jabi and Gaduwa in Abuja as well as in Yaba, Lagos, which are currently not operating to full potential. In addition we have a strong network of laboratories across the country, which we are finding more ways to utilize better, as well as a network of State Epidemiologists across Nigeria, with whom I am committed to working in close partnership to protect the health of Nigerians. Our biggest challenge, and hence our greatest opportunity, lies in the need to effectively communicate directly with the Nigerian people on how to protect themselves from public health risks.
While we build for the future, given that we have to be ready for health emergencies all the time, one area we have started work on already is creating a sense of urgency in analyzing the public health risks that we currently face. To facilitate this, we have set up a “Situation Room” at our national headquarters in Jabi, Abuja, where a team is constantly analysing the information coming in from all parts of the country and deciding on actions that will follow. One of our partners, the University of Maryland, has been critical in supporting our development in this area.
At the top of my short-term priorities is to re-energise our public health laboratory network in Nigeria. Thankfully, this is one of the priority areas identified for support by the Honourable Minister of Health’s Rapid Results Initiative. In addition, our key national asset, the National Public Health Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa has to be made fully operational in the shortest possible time, and we are committed to doing this with support from our partners.
The Nigeria Field Epidemiology Training Programme is a core part of the NCDC, and a pride of the country. However, of the hundreds of epidemiologists it has trained, it is remarkable that not a single one is employed as an epidemiologist by NCDC today – we have to change this. Going forward, the NFELTP Program will be fully integrated into the activities of the NCDC in what we hope will become a strong, mutually beneficial and supportive partnership serving the Nigerian people.
Our mandate is summarised into; disease prevention, detection, and response. We hope to focus on all three as we work to protect the health of Nigerians. It is my vision to build the confidence of Nigerians in the NCDC as the body established to protect the health of citizens through information, inclusion and timely response to health concerns.
I call on all Nigerians to work with us as we put in our best to win your confidence and that of our partners. We are developing a communications strategy to enable us work with our citizens, and towards that end, the NCDC now has a presence on our website www.ncdc.gov.ng, Twitter @NCDCGov, and Facebook @NCDCgov to enable us communicate effectively with Nigerians. We are also putting plans in place for communicating with those Nigerians without access to the Internet and social media. Please follow us for updates on our activities.
The NCDC, is ready to take on the task ahead, working in partnership with the Nigerian people. We assure you that we will give all it takes to strengthen our contribution to improving public health in Nigeria
Please hold us accountable for our actions. I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu,