22 January 2021 | Abuja – “SEEING IS BELIEVING” - VICE PRESIDENT YEMI OSIBANJO VISITS NCDC, LAUDS EFFORTS OF PUBLIC HEALTH WORKERS
On the 22nd of January 2021, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) hosted the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo at its National Reference Laboratory in Abuja. The Vice President was received at the apex laboratory by the Honourable Minister of Health, Honourable Minister of State for Health, and the Director General of NCDC. Directors as well as other members of NCDC staff and partners were also present at the visit.
The visit of the Vice President was an opportunity for him to appreciate the efforts of NCDC staff, State Public Health Teams and other public health workers who have been working tirelessly in response to the pandemic for about a year.
During his visit, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recognised and praised the efforts of NCDC staff and other public health workers, which he described as “heroic”. The Vice President interacted with the laboratory staff while on tour of the facility and observed operations at the molecular laboratory, the HIV mega-laboratory, its biorepository for the storage of samples and other areas of the facility. He reiterated the commitment of the President Muhammed Buhari administration to prioritise and strengthen health security.
The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, while welcoming the Vice President, also commended NCDC’s critical role in the prevention, detection and response to disease outbreaks. “We are very proud of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which is our youngest agency at the Federal Ministry of Health. In the last four years, the agency has grown significantly in its mandate and delivery. The achievements of NCDC in Nigeria’s public health response have been as a result of the resilience, dedication and commitment of its leadership and staff. Thank you, Your Excellency, for honouring their hardwork with your visit today.”
The Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu expressed his gratitude to the Vice President for his visit. He shared the agency’s journey with establishing the NRL, including the COVID-19 response and challenges. “We remain grateful to the Executive arm of the Government for the strong political commitment to strengthen health security in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for stable, substantial and sustainable funding for health security. We were able to activate the NRL and three other laboratories for COVID-19 diagnosis in January 2020, because we had been preparing for the next pandemic for four years. Nigeria must invest in health security for us to be better prepared for the next pandemic.”
Since the confirmation of Nigeria’s first COVID-19 case in February 2020, NCDC, supported by its partners, has been leading Nigeria’s committed public health response to the pandemic. This includes establishing and scaling up capacity for COVID-19 testing, surveillance activities, risk communications, as well as providing technical support to states and several other activities.
The NCDC National Reference Laboratory (NRL) was initially operationalised in May 2017. Prior to this, Nigeria did not have a Public Health Laboratory for epidemic-prone diseases. Since its establishment, the NRL has developed molecular capacity for the diagnosis of many epidemic prone diseases such as yellow fever, Lassa fever, monkeypox, cholera as well as highly pathogenic viruses such as Ebola virus. In response to the emergence f SARS CoV2 the virus that causes COVID 19, NCDC rapidly developed its capacity to make the diagnosis and has also led on the activation of 112 public and private laboratories across Nigeria. Through these efforts, every state in Nigeria now has at least one molecular laboratory with the capacity to test for COVID-19. The pandemic has created an opportunity to establish molecular laboratories and testing capacity that can be used for other epidemic-prone diseases.
Till date, Nigeria has conducted over one million COVID-19 tests with over 70% of these carried out in public health laboratories. A large proportion of these tests have been conducted at the NRL, where NCDC staff have maintained a 24/7 shift since the beginning of the pandemic.
The NRL was selected by WHO and Africa CDC in 2020, as one of eight sequencing laboratories in the African region. In this position, the laboratory serves as a regional reference sequencing laboratory for COVID-19 and other emerging pathogens.
About the NCDC
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is the country’s national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. The Bill for an Act to establish NCDC was signed into law in November 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari. The mission for the NCDC (2017-2021) is ‘To protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities, using a One Health approach, guided by research and led by a skilled workforce’.
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Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu
DG, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control