The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has pledged to support the 36 state governors to increase their capacity to prevent, prepare and respond to infectious diseases outbreaks in the country.
The Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said this at the Presidential Task Force, PTF, media briefing on Friday in Abuja.
Mr Ihekweazu said that the centre developed a strategy to strengthen the health security in all the states, in late 2019.
“In 2019, we developed a new strategy which we called Strengthening States for Health Security.
“This was our goal for 2020, to build on recent progress and support all states to improve their health security capacity.
“I presented this to all Honourable Commissioners of Health at the National Council of Health in 2019, and we published this on our media channels,” he explained.
The DG said that in spite of the difficulties in the last three months caused by response to a large outbreak like COVID-19, the agency continued to support states to respond to the COVID-19 and build long-term structures that will ensure health security at the state level.
“In April 2018, we began the establishment of Public Health Emergency Operations Centres in states. We began with Zamfara and by the end of 2019, we had reached 23 states.
“We provided the equipment, training and other resources required to ensure every state has a public health coordination hub, while the state provides the building and staff,” he stated.
Mr Ihekweazu said that each State Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) is linked to the National EOC which provides technical guidance and ensures coordination across the country.
“These state EOCs are now being used for the coordination of response activities to COVID-19.
“In states that do not have EOCs, our Rapid Response Teams have supported them in quickly developing coordination structures.
“We are building while responsibility,” he said.
The DG said that it was critical for the NCDC to highlight that for sustainability and ownership, the State EOCs and their response activities were led by the state while NCDC Rapid Response Teams provide support.
He said that the agency has also supported states to significantly improve their diagnostics capacity through the expansion of the laboratory network for the testing of COVID-19.
“At the beginning of this outbreak, we had only five laboratories for the testing of COVID-19 in the country. In three months, we have rapidly scaled this up to 21 and hope to get to 24 by the beginning of next week.
“By expanding the laboratory network, we are not only enhancing the capacity of states for timely diagnosis but also, their capacity to rapidly detect and effectively respond to the current and future outbreaks,” he said.
He noted that the agency has also funded the transportation of samples from every state capital to the testing laboratory closest to them.
“Our goal is that every state will have a public health laboratory with the minimum capacity required to diagnose diseases. We cannot go back to status quo,” he said.
Mr Ihekweazu said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the NCDC has continued to provide technical and logistical support to states.
“This is to enable active case finding, contact tracing, risk communications and other activities.
“We have rapidly scaled up our deployment of Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System or SORMAS across the country for real time reporting of cases.
“It is being used at the treatment centres, laboratories and at State EOCs,” he added.
He noted that the agency has continued to provide every state in Nigeria with medical supplies such as PPEs, to augment the state’s stock.
“The centre has also provided every laboratory with test kits, reagents and supplies- free of charge.
“The NCDC does not charge any state for additional supplies- medical or laboratory.
“On our website, we have provided several guidelines for states and health facilities. Every day, there is a Team looking at the latest evidence and adapting this to our context in Nigeria.
“We have also trained nearly 25,000 health workers of various cadres- epidemiologists, logisticians, laboratory scientists, medical doctors, nurses and other colleagues, since the first case in China was announced by World Health Organisation,(WHO).
“These are just a few but critical ways through which we are supporting the COVID-19 at the subnational level,” he explained.
While we continue to support states, he said that there were some aspect that require even stronger ownership on the part of states.
Meanwhile, he said that he agency plans to buy two million test kits over the next few months.
Speaking on Kogi, Mr Ihekweazu noted that NCDC can only offer help where the help is wanted.
“Let me say we’ve had a wonderful relationship with Kogi, it’s one of 1st states where we set up an EOC; we gave State Epidemiologist a vehicle over a year ago; the Commissioner for Health is a personal friend,” he added.