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Nigeria intensifies focus on yellow fever elimination

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Includes 3 new labs in national network

Nigeria intensifies focus on yellow fever elimination

By Sola Ogundipe

Towards the goal of Yellow Fever elimination from Nigeria, the Federal government has announced the inclusion of three new laboratories into national yellow fever, measles, and rubella laboratory network.

The three new laboratories are the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Edo, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.

Announcing the formal inclusion of the laboratories Tuesday in Abuja, Director General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the development is in tune with the adoption of in 2017 of the Eliminate Yellow fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy –  a global initiative led by WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to support at-risk countries in strengthening their surveillance and laboratory capacity to respond to yellow fever cases and outbreaks.

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“To build Nigeria’s capacity in line with global standards, we are officially activating three new laboratories, a necessary addition to our existing laboratory network for yellow fever, measles, and rubella. These laboratories are also part of the global WHO laboratory network. The new laboratories in Edo, Enugu and the FCT will improve our coverage and ensure timely detection and response.

He remarked that the NCDC National Reference Laboratory is also working towards full accreditation to serve as a reference laboratory for yellow fever.

“Towards achieving the goals in the EYE strategy, Nigeria has increased the number of laboratories with the capacity to test for yellow fever from four to six.”

The laboratories located across the geopolitical zone include the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Edo State to serve the South-South States; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu State will serve the South-East States and the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Gaduwa, Federal Capital Territory serves the North-East States.

Others are the Maitama District Hospital, FCT (North-Central States0; Yusuf Dansoho Memorial Hospital, Kaduna (North-West States0 and Central Public Health Laboratory, Lagos (South-West States).

READ ALSO: NCDC, NPHCDA confirm 15 laboratory cases of yellow fever in Bauchi

According to The NCDC boss:  “In 2017, Nigeria recorded an outbreak of yellow fever in Kwara State, 21 years after the last case had been detected in the country. Since then, we have continued to record clusters of cases across the country. Also in 2019, we recorded a high incidence of measles cases across the country, especially in Borno State in the North East

“Prior to 2019, we had only four laboratories in national yellow fever, measles, and rubella laboratory network. These were Maitama District Hospital, FCT; Yusuf Dansoho Memorial Hospital, Kaduna; Central Public Health Laboratory, Lagos and Gombe Specialist Hospital. There was no laboratory in the South East and the South-South with this capacity, putting a strain on other regions.”

Ihekweazu said to build Nigeria’s capacity in line with global standards, NCDC with support from our partners, has included three new laboratories in the national network and as part of the global laboratory network

“The Teaching Hospitals where these laboratories are located will provide leadership, staff, power and water supply as well as other resources for these laboratories to function daily.”

As the National Public Health Institute, NCDC has the mandate to lead the coordination of public health laboratories across the country. This we do by ensuring standardisation of testing methods, quality assurance, supply chain management as well as supporting preventive and corrective maintenance in these laboratories

In a statement. the Officer-In-Charge of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Clement Peter Lasuba reiterated the commitment of WHO and partners to support the strengthening of Nigeria’s public health laboratory.

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“We are very proud of this milestone and fully recognise NCDC’s leadership in this regard. The inclusion of these three new laboratories will strengthen the national diagnostic capacity; a critical step for Nigeria’s health security. WHO will continue to support the development of public health laboratory services in Nigeria”.

Yellow fever, measles, and rubella are vaccine-preventable diseases. It is important that Nigerians ensure their children are immunised, to prevent the spread of these diseases.

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