As Nigeria marks exactly two years since the first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first detected in Nigeria largely aided by the prompt notification of health authorities, Nigeria has since then confirmed an excess of 250,000 cases, recorded over 3,000 deaths, with major lessons learnt in a bid to strengthen the Nigeria’s health system to cope with other infectious diseases and future health emergencies.
This is as contained a message signed by the Director General, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Adedayo Adetifa explained that prior to COVID-19, the world was preparing for a possible influenza pandemic, yet the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 highlighted inadequacies in global pandemic preparedness.
“Given the interconnectedness of the world, we are at constant risk of public health emergencies that have the potential to greatly disrupt lives and livelihoods like COVID-19 did.
“This makes it critical to learn from lessons taught by this pandemic to strengthen preparedness and response to other diseases in line with our mandate. We have continued to face outbreaks of cholera and Lassa fever concurrently with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Ifedayo notes that the COVID-19 pandemic response has recorded the largest political commitment in the history of health system development in Nigeria due to its global relevance and impact on our economy.
He said this has provided opportunities for prioritising health on the political agenda and attracting the required future investment in health security.
It was further stated that all citizens have the responsibility to encourage and continue to hold authorities accountable to sustain interest and investment in healthcare in general and particularly for health security.
“As Nigeria’s national public health institute is mandated to lead on the preparedness, detection, and response to disease outbreaks of public health importance and to mitigate the health impact of public health emergencies/disasters.
“In the last five years, several efforts have been made towards improving our health system, as well as increased investment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, the NCDC supported the establishment of infectious disease treatment centres, molecular laboratories, and public health emergency operation centres in all States, and provided equipment required for critical care in hospitals e.g., dialysis machines.
‘NCDC has also led the training of over 40,000 health workers on infection prevention control, completed the digitalisation of the country’s infectious disease surveillance system, provided support including vehicles for outbreak investigation across states, and ensured regular supply of treatment and testing supplies among other activities.
It was however noted that despite the progress made, it is essential that investments in health infrastructure are sustained beyond COVID-19.
The NCDC explained further that its priority remains to work with relevant government institutions and partners to learn lessons from the pandemic and build back better.
“Although it requires significant financial investments to build infrastructure and procure equipment, investment in the strengthening of the capacity of relevant human resources to drive progress towards national health security is vital.
“We are grateful to our workforce for their sacrifice and dedication to protecting the health of Nigerians. We also remain grateful to collaborating government institutions, partners across all sectors, civil society organisations, community and religious leaders, media stakeholders, and all Nigerians for working with us in solidarity to fight COVID-19.”
According to NCDC, despite the prevailing pandemic fatigue, COVID-19 is still a global reality with the risk of emergence of dangerous variants; overcoming this pandemic and future disease outbreaks requires national and international collaboration.