Stakeholders x-ray how multi-sectoral collaboration supported FG’s Covid-19 fight

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, there were predictions that Africa would be hit hardest. For Nigeria, it was said that the number of deaths would be stupendous. But that has not been the case in terms of mortality rate.

This is due to the collaboration between the federal and state governments, the international community, the private sector, and several other key stakeholders.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Nigeria on 27 February 2020, and with over 150,000 cases reported since then, Nigeria’s response has been driven by coordination, collaboration, and solidarity.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), PharmAccess Foundation, and Aliko Dangote Foundation have been active agents of these collaborations, as well as several federal and state government health agencies.

At a recent town-hall meeting organized to capture views from the health, economic, education, and human perspective on how the country has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), urged members of the public to continue to stay safe to maintain the present victory over the virus.

“We definitely didn’t have the public health infrastructure to manage a pandemic of this size or to even mitigate its impact as much as can be. However, we did the best with what we had. We had people in our workforce who had responded to Lassa fever outbreaks, to meningitis outbreaks, etc. and we deployed them for this.

Read Also: Against forecasts, COVID-19 in Africa remains a puzzle

“They started what has been one and a half years of consistent response to the biggest threat to health in our lifetime. We hope there won’t be another wave of this pandemic and we are doing everything possible to avoid it,” he said.

A third wave, according to Ihekweazu, is not inevitable. He noted that it was up to the stakeholders to mitigate the impact of this and ensure that there is not a third wave. Therefore, the presidential steering committee made a decision a few weeks ago, to limit travels from a few countries that were having spikes in infections so as not to bring a new variant of the virus into the country.

“We are also trying to encourage everyone to take the vaccines,” he added.

Mohammed Yahya, resident representative of the UNDP, who spoke as a panelist explained how UNDP provided technical assistance for the government’s response team in the heat of the COVID crisis.

Highlighting the problems observed in the health sector, he said Nigeria’s health system is very limited in terms of overall investment and also that the social structures were heavily reliant on informality, meaning that the fact that people live in very close proximity.

In addition, the country’s economy is heavily reliant on oil which meant a heavy reliance on the global economic system (which the lockdown and other restrictions had shutdown).

“All that posed a perfect storm for a potential disaster in the country,” he noted. “However, in response to these, the first thing that we did was to look at how we can support the NCDC and provide the technical needs that were available to us through our specialized agency.”

He stated that UNDP went to panels like the European Union to know how it could support the country. He commended the Federal Government on the formation of the Presidential task force which he said brought together all approaches to dealing with the pandemic in Nigeria.

Also speaking at the meeting, the country director of PharmAccess Foundation, Njide Ndili, said the organization led in the integration of the private sector in the response to the pandemic. PharmAccess Foundation, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, provided technical assistance to the Federal and State governments of Nigeria, to build capacity for a strong healthcare system.

“We were involved in several activities as we were already in Lagos state, which was the epicenter. The first thing that was done is that we became part of the Lagos State Government’s COVID strategy think-tank to help develop the strategy to combat COVID,” she said.

The foundation developed an innovative application called LUSCII which helps one monitor COVID symptoms and connects you to a contracted facility, which would provide free testing and free treatment. It also collaborated with Novartis to supply personal protective equipment (PPEs) to over 23 public healthcare facilities across all the six geopolitical zones of the country.

The town hall event for reflecting on Nigeria’s COVID-19 response and how to build back better was organized by the UNDP and attended by the former National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force, Sani Aliyu, Ogun State commissioner of health, Tomi Coker, amongst other health stakeholders.