Home News Nigeria commits to ‘One Health approach’ to prevent infectious diseases

Nigeria commits to ‘One Health approach’ to prevent infectious diseases

by Haruna Gimba
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By Iyemah David

The Federal Government of Nigeria said it is committed to preventing infectious diseases through a ‘One Health approach.’

Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Development, Professor Mohammad Ali Pate announced this on Friday in Abuja at an Emergency National One Health Steering Committee Meeting.

The ‘One Health approach’ programme is a collaborative inter disciplinary strategy that recognizes the inter connectedness of human health, animal health, and the environment.

It involves professionals from various fields, including Medicine, Veterinary science, Environmental science, and Public health, working together towards  addressing health issues at the intersection of these domains.

This holistic approach aims at enhancing understanding, communication, and cooperation towards a better management and prevention of health threats arising from complex interactions between humans, animals, and their shared environment.

He emphasised the importance of addressing public health vulnerabilities,  particularly in a country like Nigeria.

“The government has been taking steps to address human behaviour changes in response to infectious diseases since the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

The minister stated that the current administration is dedicated to doing things differently and has unveiled the Health Sector Renewal Investment Initiative.

“The initiative focuses on governance, improving outcomes, unlocking the value chain and health security.

“The move, which involves a multi-sectoral approach, has been adopted to tackle health security challenges,” he said.

“The One Health steering committee has been formed, comprising ministers from various sectors, including agriculture, environment, water resources and health.

“Among others were the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (NCDC), as well as relevant partners such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO),” Pate explained.

He said that the committee aims at improving health security through prevention, surveillance, preparedness, and response to emerging infectious diseases.

“It also focuses on research and tracking potential threats, as 70 per cent of emerging infectious diseases originate from animals,” he added.

“The committee has recently deliberated on the potential risks associated with fruit bats, which have been found to be carrying infectious agents that could cause large outbreaks.

“Although no outbreaks have occurred in Nigeria, the government wants to be proactive in preventing crises rather than waiting to respond to them,” he said.

He emphasised the need for surveillance to identify individuals exposed to infectious agents and to conduct further research on transmission and practices.

“It is crucial to communicate the risks associated with hunting fruit bats and to encourage the use of protective equipment when in contact with them” 

“We also highlighted the importance of improving wildlife surveillance and tracking in the animal sector,” he said.

In line with the president’s agenda, he said, Nigeria plans to apply to the pandemic fund, a global fund for health security.

“The country aims to collaborate with other African nations to ensure a coherent, multi-sectoral approach to health security,” he said.

The minister called on the media and civil society organizations to focus on prevention rather than waiting for crises to occur.

According to him, Nigeria’s health sector is undergoing a behavioural change, with ministries working together in one direction and technical experts collaborating.

“The government aims to prioritize prevention and avoid firefighting situations when it comes to infectious diseases,” he said.

By preventing spillover from animal reservoirs and implementing necessary behavioural changes, he said the country’s health security can be improved, benefiting both the country and the global community.

Also, Project Director of Risk Communication, Breakthrough Action, Nigeria (BA-N), Dr Olayinka Umar-Farouk, said risk communication in a One Health approach was crucial as it facilitates effective information sharing among professionals in human, animal, and environmental health.

Dr Umar-Farouk said that this helps in early detection, response to emerging threats, and collaborative decision-making to mitigate risks at the intersection of these interconnected systems.

Giving the objectives of the meeting, Dr Oyeladun Okunromade, Director, Disease Surveillance & Epidemiology Department, NCDC, guided the National One Health Technical Committee on the potential spillover of zoonotic diseases from fruit bats to protect the health and well-being of Nigerians.

Dr Okunromade provided policy advice on research conducted on One Health priority pathogens in the country.

She presented findings indicating a moderate likelihood of zoonotic transmission and emphasised the need for surveillance, research, and awareness to mitigate the potential health risks.

She said that the steering committee discussed recommendations for improving surveillance, conducting research, and raising awareness among communities engaged in bat-related activities.

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