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Can we make a health security investment to protect us in the long term? – Ihekweazu ponders

Chikwe Ihekweazu, chief executive officer (CEO) Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has expressed the optimism that Nigeria would learn a great lesson after passing through the current scourge of coronavirus that has ravaged many countries across the globe.

Ihekweazu said: “The most important lesson we can learn is to learn from whatever we are doing. The only reason why China, Singapore and the rest of them were prepared for this better than we are they have the SARs outbreak about 10 years ago that revolutionrised their approach on their health security. They made the investment after the outbreak which led to their preparedness for what they are doing this time and that is why they have all the things they now used to respond to this outbreak.”

According to him, “It is the same for Singapore and Vietnam. To a large extent, once they understood what they were dealing with, their response became so incredibly well and organised.

“My message to Nigeria is that we will learn as quickly as possible from this one and we will improve because we are good at responding to emergencies. Where our challenge will be as a country is, can we learn in the long term, can we learn from this to invest in health security not just for now, but for the future?

“When all of us working for this response will be gone, I will be gone, many of my colleagues will be gone, but as a system and as a country, can we make a health security investment to protect us in the long term? That is not just a challenge for Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), it is not a challenge for the Federal Government, and it’s a challenge for all of us in the country.”

The NCDC boss further said: “As a public health physician, our profession, by definition, our profession depends on winning the public. Yes, we advocate for tougher measures. I truly believe that to control this outbreak we really need to win over the trust and confidence, collaboration and co-operations of the Nigerian people.

“If we go too quickly into enforcement people will go underground and we have learned this from many interventions from the past. So, rather than forcing people down, we need people to come out and to work with us, to support each other and if they find someone flouting the advice they have given, it is right of any Nigerian to go after him or her and say listen these few days, do this few things that are required of you and this will keep all us safe. I truly believe that the way for us to suffer as a country is to win over hearts and minds of Nigerians and not to force them.”


Anthonia Obokoh

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