By Sola Ogundipe
TOWARDS ending the series of outbreaks of Lassa fever, Monkeypox, yellow fever, cholera, meningitis, Ebola and other epidemic diseases in Nigeria, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, PHN, have launched the Alliance for Epidemic Preparedness and Response, A4EPR.
According to the NCDC, the aim of the A4EPR is to develop a formal structure for the private sector to support the Nigerian government through the NCDC, in the prevention, preparedness, detection, response and control of outbreaks in Nigeria.
Recent outbreaks of epidemic diseases have caused significant strain to the nation’s public health sector. In addition to this, these outbreaks affect the country’s economy through loss of labour, reduced productivity and inefficiency of businesses.
The A4EPR is designed to address priority areas in health security, focusing on building the capacity to protect the health of Nigerians. These priority areas include – purchase of equipment for outbreak preparedness and response; support to states during outbreaks; advocacy and communications as well as capacity development.
Launching the new initiative at a Private Sector Roundtable on Health Security in Lagos, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said the Alliance has been designed to keep businesses in place, stop them from hemorrhaging and give the comfort that is required to hold their investment.
Adewole, who gave kudos to the initiative and expressed commitment to support the Alliance, stated: “We need to appreciate a few things about the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. One was that Nigeria was lucky because we had about 300 field epidemiologists on ground. Two, the outbreak did not start in Nigeria and that it happened in Lagos and Rivers states – two of the most viable states in the country – was divine.
“If Ebola had happened elsewhere at the time it did, it would have been a major disaster. That helped us to handle the situation. These were things that made a difference.”
According to the Minister, three key lessons from the 2014 Ebola outbreak response in Nigeria included strong partnership between state and federal governments, public-private partnerships and effective team work.
He stated: “Lesson for me is that we need to work together, federal must work with state, and we need the private sector. We need the discipline, the result-oriented approaches of the private sector and most importantly, we need the resources of the private sector.
“We need international partners, and an energised media. We need to be prepared all year round for outbreak of epidemics.
We had an outbreak of Lassa fever this year that surpassed all others.
The WHO is talking about the X outbreak, what we need to work on is how the oubreak will be and how we can get the commitment we require.
He described the newly launched platform as a unique strategic partnership between the NCDC and the Private Health Sector Alliance of Nigeria.
During a panel discussion with representatives from Dangote Foundation, Total E&P, MTN Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Facebook and the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, each panelist shared their organisation’s experience as part of the 2014 Ebola outbreak response and other outbreak response activities, highlighting recommendations and areas for future collaboration.
In describing the efforts to develop an initiative as A4EPR, the CEO of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu and his counterpart at PHN, Dr. Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq expressed their optimism that it will serve as a secure and sustainable platform for public-private partnerships in Nigeria’s health sector.
Next year, A4EPR will work towards securing commitments from the private sector to achieve its objectives.