Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Professor Israac Adewole, has launched a scheme, Alliance for Epidemic Preparedness and Response (A4EPR) aimed at getting the major stakeholders in health sector to combat infectious diseases.
The launch which took place in Lagos state was an initiative of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The PHN is an alliance with NCDC and a coalition of private sector which has in its fold:Dangote Group Plc., MTN Nigeria, Total Nigeria, Shell Foundation and Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The mission of the group is to seek a way forward in bringing intervention to the risk of infectious diseases and to draw attention to the need of innovative partnerships in health emergency.
The group seeks to introduce to the private sector and key stakeholders to the alliance of A4EPR and secure forward commitment and pledge of private sector towards the efforts of health security.
In his remarks, the Minister said the country was lucky that the experience of Ebola in 2014 took place in Lagos and Rivers, where there was appreciable response.
“If not, there would have been a serious crisis in the country. The experience of Ebola and other diseases like Lassa fever is an eye opener for us to be ready for the next outbreak which may be imminent. We cannot sit and pray or wish that it wouldn’t happen. All we need to do is to get ready, because it is waiting to happen and we cannot prevent it. What we need do as a government and organised private sector is to sit in a forum like this and discuss the way forward in our emergency response units and how to fortify them,” he said.
Adewole said that government was seeking to release about N1 billion to address the needs of the preventive health care system, adding that the first tranche of the money would be released soon.
“Specifically, about N100 million will be release soon for it. Preventing infectious diseases is a commitment by the government and we will do all within our power to see to it and also collaborate more with the private sector on this. We are happy with the donations by Dangote group and others in the fight against Ebola outbreak and we will continue to seek for more partnerships. We will also partner with states too by bringing them on board as partners in the fight against the infectious diseases,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said that Nigeria should be more proactive toward the fight against the infectious diseases.
“We have more to do; we need to be more proactive to combating infectious diseases. We will be losing billions of naira in economic values if we fail in our responsibility to fight the diseases. We need to have a deliberate approach to fighting these diseases that may threaten our existence.”
The convener of the A4EPR launch, Dr Muntaga Umar-Sadiq, restated the need for the private sector to play important role in the management of health in Nigeria.
“The private sector has a lot of role to play in the effective management of infectious diseases in the country. We must know that infectious diseases have broken all the barriers of classes. We cannot say that combating diseases is not our concern, because we will be losing a lot economically if we fail to curtail the spread of any infectious disease in our society,” he said.
Part of the programme of the day was a panel of discussants tackling key issues and talking points, including motivating factors for involvement in previous outbreak responses.
Other topics include, the functional roles assumed by organisations during outbreak responses and lessons learnt in the past outbreaks.
The panelists include the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr Jide Idris and representatives of key stakeholders.