The World Health Organisation (WHO) has commended efforts made by the Federal Government through the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) to prepare the country for possible Ebola outbreak and other disease epidemics.
Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a meeting with Director General/Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in Abuja, last Friday, also disclosed plans by the United Nations (UN) apex health body to establish emergency preparedness champions group and strengthen Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Ghebreyesus said: “We are proposing that you mobilise a coalition led by NCDC to push for emergency preparedness, investing in installation and strengthening of health systems; not waiting for fire fighting approach.
“We don’t want international organisations to be at the forefront. Rather, we want the countries to take ownership of the emergency preparedness plans. WHO and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are only going to support the countries. The approach is exactly what you are already doing in Nigeria. The guest should behave and do what the host country wants and not the other way round. “We need a group of champions to bring lasting solutions that could be sustained in building countries’ capacity. I am glad we are on the same page. We need to review our Integrated Disease Risk (IDR).” Ihekweazu commended WHO for its intervention and leadership in curtailing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.)
He said there have been challenges around laboratory systems, but the NCDC has, in the last three years, systematically addressed it. Ihekweazu said NCDC, with support from WHO, Public Health England (PHE), United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and University of Maryland, Atlanta and other partners, has established a National Reference Laboratory (NRL) in Abuja, where most endemic epidemic diseases could be tested and confirmed. The NCDC DG said in preparation for a possible Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, the Centre has simulated and contained Ebola outbreak in a laboratory model.
He said: “We are concerned because we know we are not immune to possible Ebola outbreak. We should be worried because Ethiopian Airlines, which has flights from DRC, has four destinations in Nigeria every day. “Two weeks ago, someone came on Ethiopian Airline with a very high fever and suspected Ebola case. The person was quickly isolated and tested for Ebola and other haemorrhagic fevers. The person, however, tested negative to Ebola. We have strengthened our presence in all the airports, seaports and land borders.”