By Iyema David
The Minister for State Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, says the Presidential Task Force (PTF), which later metamorphosed into the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC), on COVID-19, contributed greatly to the success of the Nigerian COVID-19 response.
Mamora said this at a two-day special National Council on Health (NCH), meeting on Thursday in Abuja. With theme “The Journey to Attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Applying Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic Towards Building A Resilient National Health System.”
The 2014 National Health Act recognizes the NCH as the highest policy-making body within Nigerian health sector.
The responsibilities of the NCH include the protection, promotion, improvement and maintenance of the health of the citizens of Nigeria and the formulation of policies.
The Council is also tasked with ensuring the delivery of basic health services to the people of Nigeria.
The minister said that the approach also showed the importance of multisectoral involvement in addressing health system and service delivery challenges.
He said that before the pandemic, the used of digital technologies in health was limited. However, based on key learnings, the country had deployed digital technologies in both clinical and public health settings as part of the response strategy to the pandemic and these have further advanced effectiveness and efficiency.
Mamora reflected on the gains and challenges based on the strategies that were deployed at the early stages of the response to the pandemic; noting that there was the closure of international borders which consequently resulted in the scarcity of medicines and medical consumables.
“This challenge gave the country a push to look inwards with a view to harnessing our in-country capacity for the local production of medical products and consumables. For instance, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) produced COVID -19 PCR and rapid test kits, hand sanitizers, PPEs, and face masks during the closure of international borders.
“The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development also produced sanitizers and some other medical products. Currently, the Federal Government is working towards advancing local vaccine production strategies.
“This initiative will not only increase the availability of local medicine and vaccines but also contribute to the economic development of the country and human capital development. Furthermore, the pandemic resulted in reprioritized investments in public health preparedness infrastructure,” he explained.
He added that the country moved from three public health labs pre-pandemic to more than 36 molecular public health laboratories around the country.
The minister said that a key challenge faced at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic response was mistrust in the scientific measures in mitigating the pandemic.
Senator Mamora noted that the COVID-19 Pandemic had made it clearer the need for the country to be able to rely on its healthcare system to provide effective, efficient services and very importantly with financial risk protection at all times, at all levels for our people.
“The National Health Act (NHAct), 2014 has provisions that can turn around our healthcare systems, but the challenge is implementation. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we maximize the provisions of this law through the full operationalization.
“I have no doubt that if this is done, we would achieve a resilient and responsive health system that will move us close to our collective dream,” he stressed.