28 February 2021 | Abuja – Two Years of COVID-19 Response: Building on Lessons from COVID-19 to Strengthen Nigeria’s Health Security for the Future
On Sunday, 27th of February 2022, marked exactly two years since the first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first detected in Nigeria. This was largely aided by the prompt notification of health authorities by an astute attending physician. Since then, Nigeria has confirmed an excess of 250,000 cases, recorded over 3,000 deaths, and learnt major lessons in its bid to strengthen the country’s health system to cope with other infectious diseases and future health emergencies.
Prior to COVID-19, the world was preparing for a possible influenza pandemic, yet the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 highlighted inadequacies in global pandemic preparedness. Given the interconnectedness of the world (now essentially a global village), we are at constant risk of public health emergencies that have the potential to greatly disrupt lives and livelihoods like COVID-19 did. This makes it critical to learn from lessons taught by this pandemic to strengthen preparedness and response to other diseases in line with our mandate. We have continued to face outbreaks of cholera and Lassa fever concurrently with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic response has recorded the largest political commitment in the history of health system development in Nigeria due to its global relevance and impact on our economy. This has provided opportunities for prioritising health on the political agenda and attracting the required future investment in health security. We all have the responsibility to encourage and continue to hold authorities accountable to sustain interest and investment in healthcare in general and particularly for health security.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as Nigeria’s national public health institute is mandated to lead on the preparedness, detection, and response to disease outbreaks of public health importance and to mitigate the health impact of public health emergencies/disasters. In the last five years, several efforts have been made towards improving our health system, as well as increased investment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, the NCDC supported the establishment of infectious disease treatment centres, molecular laboratories, and public health emergency operation centres in all States, and provided equipment required for critical care in hospitals e.g., dialysis machines. NCDC has also led the training of over 40,000 health workers on infection prevention control, completed the digitalisation of the country’s infectious disease surveillance system, provided support including of vehicles for outbreak investigation across states, and ensured regular supplies of treatment and testing supplies among other activities. Despite this progress, it is essential that these investments in health infrastructure are sustained beyond COVID-19. Our priority remains to work with relevant government institutions and our partners to learn lessons from the pandemic and build back better.
Although it requires significant financial investments to build infrastructure and procure equipment, investment in the strengthening of the capacity of relevant human resources to drive progress towards national health security is vital. We are grateful to our workforce for their sacrifice and dedication to protecting the health of Nigerians. We also remain grateful to collaborating government institutions, partners across all sectors, civil society organisations, community and religious leaders, media stakeholders, and all Nigerians for working with us in solidarity to fight COVID-19.
Despite the prevailing pandemic fatigue, COVID-19 is still a global reality with the risk of emergence of dangerous variants. Overcoming this pandemic and future disease outbreaks requires national and international collaboration. On a personal level, we can contribute by getting vaccinated and adhering to COVID-19 safety measures.
The NCDC remains committed to working under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health and in close collaboration with the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 to end the pandemic and protect the health of every Nigerian.
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 Ifedayo Adetifa
DG, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control