By Asmau Ahmad
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that Nigeria achieved significant progress while combating the COVID-19 virus and the feat put the country ahead of its pre-pandemic preparedness reality.
Speaking on Nigeria’s preparedness to face the next pandemic compared to the pre-COVID-19 era, Director General of the NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, in an interview.
“We have achieved gains in a lot of areas. Before the pandemic, we only had three laboratories with diagnostic capacity for COVID-19 in the country, but now, we have about 200 laboratories within our network that can be activated in the event of an emergency.
“We are also currently developing regional laboratories through the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement project to decentralise the reference laboratory system. We inaugurated the zonal laboratory for the South-West region earlier in the year, and we intend to open more before the end of the year,” he said.
The NCDC DG noted that the country also has a digitalised surveillance network through Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System – SitAware, and other tools in all local governments to help accelerate reporting.
He said once there is a suspected case in any local government, within a few minutes of inputting the data, the surveillance team can be alerted, and the necessary investigation could be undertaken.
“Nigeria also has an adequately trained workforce to respond in case of public health events. Through the REDISSE project, we recently trained all the disease notification officers in all the states in Nigeria,” Dr Adetifa added.
He noted that in building a strong frontline of public health workers at the subnational level, NCDC has trained Surveillance Officers through Integrated Training of Surveillance Officers in Nigeria.
The NCDC DG, also said through the Intermediate Field Epidemiology Training Programme, workforce-training capacity continues to be strengthened, saying that through training of healthcare workers during the pandemic, NCDC improved infection prevention and control capacity.
“We now have more Public Health Emergency Operations Centres, enabling coordination of response to public health threats. From 29 nationwide pre-pandemic, we now have in 35 states and FCT.
“Additionally, we have more treatment and isolation centres, facilitating improved case management during outbreaks. We are currently carrying out our second Joint External Evaluation to rate how prepared we are to effectively prevent, detect and respond to public health events.
“This process will also help us to critically look inward for existing gaps that need to be addressed to ensure the country has the required health security core capacities,” he added.