Nigeria and the rest of the world continues to be at risk of infectious disease outbreaks and public health threats. Over the last few years, the country has experienced outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, cerebro spinal meningitis, Ebola, as well as a resurgence of yellow fever and monkeypox. The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been described as the second largest outbreak of the particular strain, highlighting the need for regional and global preparedness.
In a move to bolster Nigeria’s health security capacities and ensure that the country is better prepared to prevent, detect,and respond to public health emergencies, 19 federal agencies have come together to develop and launch the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) in Abuja, today. This process has been coordinated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as the country’s International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005) national focal point, with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners.
The NAPHS follows an intensive Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of the country’s IHR capacities, carried out in 2017. The NAPHS outlines activities that will enhance coordination across Nigeria’s MDA swith a role to play in health security, and build capacities across 19 technical areas.
Speaking at the launch, the Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, noted that this strategic plan would enable proper planning, prioritisation and resource mobilisation, to strengthen health security and public health emergencies capacity in Nigeria.
“This plan is a significant investment aimed at enhancing our preparedness and response strategy. Outbreaks in the last few years have reinforced the need to institute safeguards that will ensure that as a nation, we are better prepared at all times to deal swiftly and decisively with issues pertaining to health security.” Adewole said.
Furthermore, he stated that the launch of the National Action Plan is not the end of the process. “The success of NAPHS will depend on the implementation of the priority actions. We often emphasise that health security involves not only the health sector, but all sectors working towards national security. It gives me great joy that for the first time in this country and under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, we have brought together all players involved in protecting the health of Nigerians – within and outside the health sector.”
In his remarks, the NCDC Director General, Dr.Chikwe Ihekweazu lauded the government’s unwavering commitment to improving emergency preparedness and response in Nigeria, describing the launch of the NAPHS as a show of increased commitment to national health security.
“I am happy that together with other agencies and stakeholders, we have developed a holistic and clear plan for national health security. Through this process, we have been able to bring together the various stakeholders with a role to play in protecting the health of Nigerians – from security agencies to nuclear regulatory bodies and several others. The NCDC inits role as the IHR national focal point will continue to work with all our partners, so that Nigeria is better prepared to manage public health risks”, Ihekweazu said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his remarks delivered by the acting WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, emphasised that WHO remains committed to supporting the implementation of Nigeria’s NAPHS.
He added “WHO congratulates Nigeria for the steps you have taken to establish the NCDC and to launch a National Action Plan for Health Security. This is an encouraging progress. Ultimately, the best defense against outbreaks and other crisis is strong, resilient health systems based on people-centred primary care.” Dr. Tedros said.
The launch also had in attendance representatives of the Honourable Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development, Science and Technology, Environment as well as leaders of the various agencies involved, UN agency representatives, members of the diplomatic community, civil society organisations and technical committee members.