The Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, has lamented that Nigeria lacks “adequate response mechanism” to handle disease outbreaks.
Utazi spoke during an oversight visit of the Senate Committee on Health to the Port Health Services at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and the Apapa Seaport in Lagos on Friday.
He said it was worrisome the country put in so much energy in fighting disease outbreaks rather than putting in place mechanisms to prevent the outbreaks.
He said, “We don’t have adequate response mechanism in handling eventuality of an outbreak in this country and that is what we just confirmed during our visits to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Apapa Seaport.
“It is unfortunate that we have to wait until we have an issue before working on how to curtail it. That doesn’t help us to achieve any solution to the health needs of our people. Taking it forward from here, we will go back to the drawing board; we have to stop this ‘fire brigade approach’ to solving our problems. There must be permanent structures to solve our problems, whether we have outbreaks or not. We must put all the necessary things in place at all the points of entry.”
The senator also stressed the need for port officials to be trained in line with international best practices.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said the visit had exposed the gaps in the country’s points of entry.
He said, “From what we have seen at the airport and the seaport in Lagos, it shows that we have a lot of gaps that need to be filled for us to say we are prepared for any eventuality.
“The gaps include human resources, especially health workers, at the airport and seaport. At the port health located at MMIA, we have one doctor, and at the port health at Apapa Seaport no doctor is there.
“We also have equipment deficit; basic equipment required to provide an immediate response is not available. At Apapa Seaport, they don’t have the mobility to move to inspect vessels.
“Also, we found that the seaport’s port health is not connected to modern technology, which means we are exposed.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation Technical Officer, Health Emergency Programme, Dhamari Naidoo, said after a risk assessment was done, Nigeria was rated high because of frequent travel between Nigeria and China. She noted that the global health agency would focus on nine states that had ports of entry into the country (land, water and air).
They are Lagos, Kano, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Enugu, Delta and Bayelsa states and the Federal Capital territory. She said WHO had activated the coronavirus preparedness working group at the National Centre for Disease Control with representation from the Ministry of Health and other relevant ministries.
Naidoo who spoke in Abuja added that contrary to insinuation, use of cocaine and whiskey had not been scientifically proven to cure coronavirus.
She said, “We are currently working hard to identify isolation points in high risk states. In Abuja, the Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada has been identified and in Lagos, we have identified the Infectious Diseases Hospital, in Yaba.”
“The National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja is working and we are currently working with the University Teaching Hospital in Lagos to get it running this weekend. Overtime we will have more laboratories in the country signaling they are ready to test samples.
In a related development, the world is facing a chronic shortage of gowns, masks, gloves and other protective equipment in the fight against a spreading coronavirus epidemic, World Health Organisation Chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
The UN agency has been sending testing kits, masks, gloves, respirators and gowns to every region, Tedros told the WHO Executive Board in Geneva, according to a News Agency of Nigeria report.
“However, the world is facing a chronic shortage of personnel protective equipment, as you might imagine.
“This afternoon I will be speaking to the pandemic supply chain network to identify the bottlenecks and find solutions and push (for) fairness in distribution of equipment,” he said.
“This is why you may have contacted Omicron without knowing” -WHO
The Omicron COVID-19 variant is more transmissible than the Delta strain and reduces vaccine efficacy but causes less severe symptoms according to early data, the World Health Organisation said Sunday.
The Delta variant, first identified in India earlier this year, is responsible for most of the world’s coronavirus infections.
But South Africa’s discovery of Omicron – which has a large number of mutations — last month prompted countries around the world to impose travel bans on southern African countries and reintroduce domestic restrictions to slow its spread.
The WHO said Omicron had spread to 63 countries as of December 9.
The faster transmission was noted in South Africa, where Delta is less prevalent, and in Britain, where Delta is the dominant strain.
But it stressed that a lack of data meant it could not say if Omicron’s rate of transmission was because it was less prone to immune responses, higher transmissibility, or a combination of both.
Early evidence suggests Omicron causes “a reduction in vaccine efficacy against infection and transmission”, the WHO said in a technical brief.
“Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs,” it added.
Omicron infections have so far caused “mild” illness or asymptomatic cases, but the WHO said the data was insufficient to establish the variant’s clinical severity.
South Africa reported Omicron to the WHO on November 24. Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech last week said three doses of their jabs were still effective against Omicron.
Countries with sufficient vaccine supplies such as Britain and France have encouraged their populations to receive a third “booster” jab to fight Omicron.
WHO joins forces with FIFA, Quatar to launch #ACTogether campaign on CVID-19
Using the platform of the first FIFA Arab Cup™, the World Health Organization (WHO), FIFA and the Qatari authorities are launching the #ACTogether campaign to call for teamwork and unity to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests.
A large proportion of the global population remains susceptible to infection and at an increased risk of severe disease and death. Vaccine inequity persists in many parts of the world; of the nearly 7.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally by mid-November 2021, only 0.6% had been administered in low‑income countries. The WHO is emphasizing the need to scale up access to vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, through support to the global Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator equity initiative, as well as the importance of strict adherence to public health measures.
FIFA will utilize football’s substantial platform during the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™ with a series of videos for broadcast, both in-stadium and around Doha. Team captains will also show their support for the message, while each participating member association will have assets to share with its fans via its social and digital platforms. The #ACTogether awareness initiative was first rolled out during the last edition of the FIFA Club World Cup™ in Qatar in February 2021 and its latest iteration stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe and we all have our roles to play in sharing that message. Health comes first, and through football, we can reinforce the message that high infection and death rates will persist worldwide as long as there is inequitable access to tools to fight the pandemic. Teamwork is key to that and that’s why we are standing together with the WHO, the Qatar Ministry of Public Health and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and call for everyone to #ACTogether and lay the foundations for a healthy FIFA World Cup in 2022.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said: “The emergence of the Omicron variant underlines the importance of global solidarity and working together to defeat the pandemic. I welcome the strong support from Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, FIFA, players, spectators and partners to support this vital message on the occasion of the FIFA Arab Cup. Now, more than ever, we need to facilitate equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests, and encourage everyone to follow public health measures. Fully funding the ACT Accelerator will help make the ambition of ending the acute phase of the pandemic a reality.”
Her Excellency Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Qatar’s Minister of Public Health, said: “The Ministry is proud to be partnered with FIFA and WHO to promote global collaboration and ensure the safety and health of all. While the pandemic remains managed in Qatar, the threat of the pandemic is still present around the world, and unfortunately access to the tools to defeat the virus remain limited for many countries.”
Her Excellency noted that just as the players in the FIFA Arab Cup will experience a level playing field on the pitch in Qatar, the world needs to ensure a level playing field exists for getting vaccines, treatments and tests where they are needed most. She called on members of the public to continue to follow hygiene, social distancing and other preventive measures, and expressed her delight to have the chance to promote this vital message at the Arab Cup.
Mr Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, said: “The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be the next mega-event to take place in a COVID-19 world. As organizers, the health and safety of all participants and fans is our number one priority, and our support for #ACTogether is an integral part of this commitment. Working closely with the Ministry of Public Health, the WHO and FIFA, we have no doubt that this campaign will contribute to ensuring that the tournament will be both safe and secure, and we look forward to bringing the world together, both in person and digitally, to celebrate their common humanity and passion for football.”
In using the inaugural FIFA Arab Cup 2021 to share the message, FIFA and its partners are underlining their commitment to both fair play and equity in protecting public health, reflecting core values on the pitch, all while staying true to the main public health measures.
The #ACTogether campaign is being supported by the lead partner agencies of the ACT Accelerator initiative: CEPI, FIND, Gavi, The Global Fund, UNICEF, Unitaid, Wellcome, the WHO, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
NGO to collaborate with NASS on National Health Emergencies
An NGO, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), says it will collaborate with the National Assembly, to formulate a bill that will enable security agencies to effectively manage national health emergencies.
Mr Itia Otabor, Director of Strategy, Centre LSD, disclosed this during a Citizen’s Forum on ‘Strengthening Pan-African Citizens Voices for Security Sector Accountability (SPaCVOSSA)’ on Thursday in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Centre LSD with support from TrustAfrica under its Governance Programme, initiated the SPaCVOSSA project.
The project which would be conducted in four African countries namely: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya; would seek to analyse how citizens were affected by activities of security services during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Otabor, who is also the Project Coordinator, SPaCVOSSA, said that the project would look at the modalities and constraints of security forces during the implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown.
He said that the COVID-19 pandemic raised a lot of challenges that affected different aspects of lives of citizens across the globe, including Africa.
“At least 42 African governments implemented partial or full lockdown measures and movement restrictions, to contain the spread of the disease following recommendations by local health experts and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“In Nigeria, the approach was supported and reinforced by a high-level securitization by the Nigerian security forces,” he said.
Otabor said that there were lots of alleged cases of human rights violations and outcry of citizens against high-handedness of security agencies during the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to him, Centre LSD in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) was engaging citizens and security agencies on how security measures could be effectively implemented with minimal encroachment on the rights of citizens.
He said that the outcome of the engagement would enable Centre LSD push for institutionalization of the findings as a bill to serve as the country’s protocol in dealing with national health emergencies.
“We also hope that it will help to reshape the security architecture in dealing with future pandemics and other national emergencies,” he said.
He added that the project would also strengthen citizens’ voices and make security agencies to be accountable for their actions, during national health emergencies.
Also, Mr Waheed Ishola, State Director, NOA, said that the forum was not to cast aspersions on stakeholders or security agencies, but to strengthen harmonious relationships.
Ishola said that harmonious relationships between citizens and security agencies would engender trust and promote citizens’ wellbeing.
He advised security agencies to re-strategise and overhaul their communication channels to be more responsive to breed trust.
Also, the Commissioner for Police in Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu, said that the forum would assist the police to effectively respond to future pandemic and other crises.
Odumosu, represented by the ACP in charge of Operations, Oladotun Odubona, said that the police faced challenges during COVID-19 palliative distribution, and escorting vaccines to various locations.
He said that the police were working assiduously to surmount the challenges and would also enforce all COVID-19 protocols to reduce the spread of the virus and safeguard the citizens.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health,Prof. Akin Abayomi, in his comment said that the outcome of the forum would form a template for the state’s response to future pandemic.
Abayomi was represented by Mr Oluwatoyin Tiamiyu, a director in the ministry. (NAN)
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