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WHO tasks Nigeria on comprehensive approach to pandemic preparedness

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Nigeria to adopt a comprehensive approach for pandemic preparedness.

Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Country Representative, Nigeria, said this on Monday at the second Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of Nigeria’s health security capacity through the assessment of its International Health Regulations (IHR) prescribed core capacities.

He said the second JEE had provided an opportunity for Nigeria to have a comprehensive approach toward governance in its health security.

Mulombo explained that a JEE was a voluntary, collaborative, multi-sectoral process to assess a country’s capacities to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to public health risks whether occurring naturally or due to deliberate or accidental events.

He added that the JEE helped countries identify the most critical gaps within their human and animal health systems in order to prioritise opportunities for enhanced preparedness and response.

Dr Chukwuma Anyaike, Director Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) said that it was crucial to reflect on the importance of this evaluation process in fortifying the country’s ability to safeguard the health and well-being of its citizens.

Anyaike said the country’s determination to enhance its capabilities in disease surveillance, emergency response, points of entry and borders, laboratory system and workforce development remained commendable.

He said the insights gathered from the JEE would serve as a roadmap to further alleviate the country’s preparedness, response and recovery mechanism.

The Director, United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) Dr Mary Boyd, said that US CDC approach was to develop the capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to public health threats needed to be in a collaborative manner.

According to Boyd, working together to prepare for outbreaks before they occur ensures that lives are protected around the world, resources are saved and outbreaks are limited.

Dr Michael Olugbile, Senior Health Specialist, World Bank, said the Ebola outbreak enhanced the attention paid by development financing institutions to health security.

Olugbile said the World Bank was evaluating the progress made with the investments through the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) project using the JEE indicators as a result framework.

Dr Olusola Aruna, representative, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the UKHSA IHR Strengthening project had been invested in the strengthening of the core capacities of Nigeria over the last seven years.

Aruna said the outcome of the second JEE validation exercise would point the country in the right direction in terms of the gaps and opportunities, leveraging on our strengths as a country.

Ms Chioma DanNwafor, Senior Technical Officer, Africa CDC, Regional Collaborative Centre for West Africa, said that on the continent, Nigeria was one of the few countries that had achieved this great feat of the second JEE.

DanNwafor commended all stakeholders for their effort and resources invested in this voluntary evaluation using the One Health approach.

The Emergency Preparedness and Response, WHO, Dr Mie Okamura said that since it was established as one of the four IHR monitoring and evaluation frameworks, WHO had been supporting its establishment across several countries including Nigeria.

According to Okamura, we know and applaud the efforts that country stakeholders have put in over the last five years to address the health system gaps identified in the last JEE.

The Director-General, NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said the JEE was an opportunity to assess the state of play since the first JEE in 2017 and the progress the country had made given all concerted actions and investments in health security.

Adetifa said that over the past years, Nigeria had faced both progress and challenges in public health.

“Our response to various disease outbreaks has showcased the fortitude of our healthcare professionals, the strength of our partnerships, and the indomitable spirit of our people.

“The world around us is evolving, and with it, the landscape of health threats is becoming increasingly complex.

“Today’s evaluation is a testament to our unwavering commitment to ensuring that our health security systems are agile, robust, and responsive,” he said.

Giving an overview of the country’s national health system, public health services and health security system, the NCDC boss highlighted the aspiration as a country including; Political ownership of the health security process at subnational levels, Domestic health investments through budgetary allocations.

Among others, he said were improved geographical access to health facilities, ensure quality healthcare at primary level and achieve Universal Health Coverage.

According to him, while we’ve seen some progress in public health services in terms of access, there is still a considerably long way to go.

The International Health Regulations (2005) is a legally binding framework that requires all WHO member countries to develop and maintain their capacity to prevent, detect, assess, and respond to public health risks and emergencies.

Following on the country’s first JEE, the nation is one of a handful of countries to undertake a second round of the JEE, utilising the JEE 3.0 tools.

The JEE, a voluntary multi-sectoral process, is one of the four components of the IHR monitoring and evaluation framework.

This process involves a diverse team of experts, collectively evaluating a nation’s preparedness and response capacities across 19 technical areas, under the guidance of relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.

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