April 25, 2016

Nigeria as hub of Africa’s Centre for Disease Control

The adoption of Nigeria as the hub of Africa’s Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) is instructive. It followed the clearance by the African Union of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to host not just the West African sub-regional CDC, but also the African CDC Regional Collaborating Centre, based on the quality and integrity of the health structures and facilities in the country.

Four other countries: Gabon, Egypt, Zambia and Kenya were also nominated to host respective Regional Collaborating Centres that would fulfill the African Union’s disease control role, in accordance with Article 26 of the African Centres for Disease Control statutes.

There is no doubt that major exploits in the health sector in recent times put Nigeria in positive light before the international health community. The certification as a guinea worm-free country by the World Health Organisation, successes towards the eradication of polio, stopping the Ebola virus in its tracks and curtailing the spread of the Lassa fever epidemic – among others, easily come to mind.

But perhaps the most telling fact is that Nigeria’s response and success in stopping the 2014 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in the country, has forever changed the attitude and approach of African countries to disease response.

However, it is significant to observe that since the announcement of the nation’s adoption as Africa’s hub of disease control, little or nothing else has been heard as a follow-up towards the realisation of the expected roles, objectives and ultimate goals of the CDC facility. Nigerians are in the dark about what comes next.

It is necessary to point out that when dealing with diseases of epidemic and pandemic capabilities, the best time to act is now. As the hub of research and Africa’s CDC coordinating centre, being at the forefront of research and disease surveillance in the sub-region and a major regional collaborating centre for Africa should not be a waiting game.

Africa now appreciates and values surveillance, and recognises it as a vital and valuable tool in fighting epidemic outbreaks.

The CDC facility in Nigeria should be seen as actively playing a pivotal role in confronting current and future emerging cross-regional and cross-country communicable diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever, meningitis, polio, measles and the like.

In addition to helping to strengthen neighboring national and international health systems notably within the West African region, Africa’s CDC hub must develop systems to detect, respond to, and prevent the emergence and spread of future health threats.

It must be equipped and prepared to make informed decisions, identifying potential locations of diseases early, sharing data and communicating effectively with regional partners, and other African countries.