The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) hosted scientists and experts who work at global, regional and country levels on various aspects of global health and health system strengthening to brainstorm strategies on how to improve Nigeria’s response to COVID-19 and respond effectively to future outbreaks.
The just concluded Nigerian Conference of Applied and Field Epidemiology (NiCAFE) saw the sharing of ideas and development of strategies that would help Nigeria strengthen her capacity and effectively manage disease outbreaks.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of the NCDC, said the maiden conference is an opportunity to share experience and ideas with professionals from across the world.
While noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had significant devastation on the lives of people across the world and in Nigeria, the DG warned that there is a possibility that Nigeria is yet to see the worst of the pandemic.
The DG further stated that in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is faced with multiple concurrent disease outbreaks.
He said, “In the last one month alone, we have been responding to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, outbreak of cholera in several state, panic associated with the detection of a monkey pox case in the US with travel history from Nigeria.
“Every week, we detect cases of yellow fever, Lassa fever, measles and other infectious diseases that are endemic in Nigeria. That is our reality – our tropical climate, population density, and poor socio-economic factors leave us at risk of annual, multiple, concurrent disease outbreaks in Nigeria.
“Therefore, we must be one step ahead of these pathogens. We must also think of the other public health challenges that lie ahead of us – our population is growing at a rapid phase and this will have an incredible impact on our health system. Globally, there is a rise in antimicrobial resistance, and this will affect the prevention and management of infectious disease cases. We are also faced with increasing risks and prevalence of non-communicable diseases.”
NCDC director of Prevention Programmes and Knowledge Management, Chinwe Ochu, restated that the conference presented an opportunity for Nigeria to examine its response so far, lessons and how it can build back stronger.
Speaking on lessons learnt, ,Ochu said the COVID-19 outbreak had been very disruptive but had it’s opportunities
“For instance, we have always used an incident management system in responding to Covid-19 outbreak, this time around we had a multi-sectoral engagement. Our incidence management system now includes a clear robust infodemic management system which we are scaling to the sub-national levels .
“We had the laboratory aspect of our response strengthened as a result of this outbreak. Before the outbreak, we had just about 4 laboratories, but now we have over 100 across states.
She assured that Nigeria is prepared to handle any outbreak in the future.
“NCDC will continue to strengthen risk communications network, empower the state to respond, stre diagnostic capacity, have more partnership in science to identify contextual factors that drive Covid-19 outbreak in the country. We are definitely building back stronger”, she added.
Danjuma Abdulrahman. Infodemics management consultant for the World Health Organisation(WHO), regretted that COVID-19 witnessed the worst epidemics unlike other outbreaks such as Ebola, polio among others.
He defined infodemics as a tsunami of information on public health interventions, which affects the behaviour of people.
“Infodemics really affected the response; because of too much information, people can’t really decipher which is appropriate or not, it has really escalated the issue”, he said.
He however regrets that some government agencies are working in silos in addressing the problem and called for better coordination.
(NiCAFE) was held virtually from the 26th – 28th of July 2021 and has the theme Building back better: COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks. The conference was declared open by the Honourable Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire.
It featured eight keynote/plenary speakers, over 170 oral and poster presentations across various themes. These include governance and leadership, epidemiology, surveillance and transmission dynamics, case management of infectious diseases.