…says only South Africa has level four biosafety lab in the continent

By Gabriel Olawale

Stakeholders, experts and opinion leaders have admonished African leaders to invest more in building biosecurity infrastructures as part of measures to secure Africa biosphere and prevent pathogens.

This was the core message at the 7th African Conference on One Health & Biosecurity organized by the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium with the support of Lagos State Ministry of Health.

In his remarks, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said that four things are happening simultaneously in Africa that threaten the security of biosphere, “climate change is forcing massive migration to cities, environmental destruction is increasing the contact between humans and wildlife which promotes disease outbreak, rapid interconnectivity through air transportation. Also we are gaining huge expertise in manipulating genetic life forms.

Abayomi who called for more investment in biosecurity infrastructure said that a health threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere, “African region experiences around 100 public health events annually, of which 80 percent are caused by infectious diseases. Yet Africa compared to the rest of the world remains susceptible to novel infectious diseases as laboratory facilities for testing, diagnosis, and research of pathogens of high consequence is severely limited.

“For instance, when you look at Africa continent, only Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal have been able to build level 3 labs while South Africa is the only country with level 4 biosecurity in the whole continent. Lagos State government have been able to acquired level 2 and 3. We are working towards acquire level 4 because to handle some of these pathogens you need this infrastructure.

Abayomi emphasized that each country has the moral responsibility to protect its people within the social contract from biological crises, threats and protect the integrity of its ecosystem, “In fulfilling this responsibility, the government must be able to do the following, pre-empt and prevent biosecurity threat, predict, mitigate and adapt, find and clearly identify a threat when it emerges, stop it promptly, restore calm and civil disruption and avoid economic collapse.”

Corroborating his views, Chief Operating Officer, Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium, GET, Dr. Dotun Bobadoye said that in the last few years, some African countries have experienced devastating effects of emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever, cholera among others.

“As of the first week of October 2021, nearly 240 million people have been infected with COVID-19 with 5 million deaths globally. These events clearly underscore human vulnerability towards pathogens in our present world.

Bobadoye hinted that countries with substantial research capacity for genomics and bioinformatics, such as UK, US, Germany, China, Israel among others were able to deploy genomics and bioinformatics techniques for the development of diagnostic kits for rapid detection, immunoresponses discovery, pharmacogenomics, transmission dynamics and record-breaking vaccine development.

“I hope that the beneficial application of genomics in the fight against the pandemic will inspire and inform a paradigm shift on the continent and encourage African governments to invest more in genomic and vaccine technology and infrastructure.”

Executive Director and Chief Executive, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib expressed displeasure over the fact that Nigeria still depend on global community to meet vaccine need.

“As a country we are not support to be begging or depending on foreign countries for vaccine. All we need to do is to develop local capacity and the agency is willing to collaborate in this regard. We must look into the future so that we can be prepared and avoid next epidemic. Nigeria have to business waiting for anybody for vaccine that we need, as a government we will continue to support effort towards local vaccine production.

Chairman of the occasion and Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that his administration is committed towards promoting and secure residence health, “On yearly basis, we have continually increase allocation to health while also take special interest in training and retraining health work force.

“As a state, we will continue to invest in future we talk about today. Our investment in health sector is not mainly because of COVID-19 but to ensure we are prepared and well equipped for any public health diseases or pandemic.”

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