By Sola Ogundipe
In the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in China and several other countries of including Nigeria, the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Association, JOHESU/AHPA, has raised the alarm over impending drug insecurity in the country and thus called on the Federal Government to invest in the pharmaceutical industry towards guaranteeing self-sufficiency in essential medicines.
Making the call during a courtesy visit to the office of President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, a delegation of the JOHESU/AHPA National leadership, led by the National Chairman, JOHESU, Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, noted: “One of the challenges that has arisen as a fall-out of COVID-19 is that of drug security which is a challenge we have always alerted the nation of.
“Today the shut-down of major pharmaceutical industries in China, as well as banning of exportation of drugs and pharmaceutical excipients from India, makes the threat of an imminent drug scarcity in Nigeria a huge possibility because these two countries combine to supply over 80 per cent of drug needs in Nigeria today.
“The Federal Government must, therefore, facilitate substantial investments in the Pharmaceutical Industry especially the building of petrochemical plants to guarantee self-sufficiency in the availability of essential medicines in the health system.”
Commending the prompt release of funds to tackle the COVID-19 menace through the release of N600 million for essentials including Personal Protection Equipment, PPE, Josiah noted: “We put on record that even when the Federal Ministry of Health, FMOH, mouths a readiness to fight this emerging public health challenge, only Lagos State boasts of Bio-Bank level 3 in sub-saharan Africa.
“On Wednesday, March 4, the Senate President Ahmed Lawan lamented that Abuja had no functional Isolation Centre like Lagos State, because the proposed centres were not ready. The Minister of Health EElate on Friday informed the world that the Isolation Centre in Abuja was now ready which gave some assurance.
“At a time like this, as veritable stakeholders who must protect consumers of health, we shall add our voice to say even when Government is trying there are palpable signals we are very vulnerable because of the logistics of challenges involved in tracking the index case (only 1 patient).”
Further, Josiah said other challenges revolve around the quality of diagnosis at points of entry (airports and seaports) and gaps in available diagnostic centres, surveillance, isolation as well as Quarantine Centres.
“Flowing from this, JOHESU wishes to strongly recommend to the Federal Government through this medium that an urgent need probably arises to restrict international flights coming to Nigeria at this critical juncture to Lagos and Abuja airports and ships berthings to only Lagos seaports particularly because surveillance is better in these cities which also have functional isolation centres now.”