Nigeria not prepared for disease outbreak – Group

vaccination exercise
vaccination exercise [Photo: News Express NG]

Nigeria is not prepared for the next unknown epidemic, a report published by a new international health website has warned.

In fact, many countries are not prepared to combat the outbreak of any new epidemic, the website, PreventEpidemics.org, stated.

The website communicates the risk of epidemics at the country level and encourages action to reduce these risks, Amanda McClelland, one of the promoters of the site, said.

The website was launched at the annual Aspen Ideas Spotlight Health Festival held June 21 to 24 in Aspen, Colorado in the United States.

Its founders include executives of some top health organisations, including Mrs McClelland, who also coordinated frontline Ebola response during the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

The website is the first to provide a single ReadyScore for every country based on their ability to find, stop and prevent epidemics. It also provides advocacy tools to help make health protection a priority.

On the website, Nigeria was scored 39 per cent in terms of emergency preparedness and ability to effectively respond, monitor and contain diseases outbreak.

This rating derived from the ways in which the country handled previous disease emergency outbreaks.

Nigeria in the last two years has had various diseases outbreaks, ranging from Lassa fever, meningitis, monkeypox, and an ongoing cholera outbreak in 12 states.

Most of these diseases were not quickly contained due to late reporting, lack of preparedness and poor surveillance.

In the light of these challenges, the website highlighted specific actions civil society organisations and concerned citizens in Nigeria can take to help the country better prepare.

Tom Frieden, one of the founders of the website, said “by the end of this year, nearly 100 countries will have completed a rigorous, transparent assessment of how prepared they are for an epidemic – but there has been too little support from the global community and countries to adequately close life-threatening gaps.”

“It’s not a matter of if there will be another global epidemic, but when. It’s time for the global community and countries to step up and improve preparedness.”

Mrs McClelland, who served as the Team Lead of Global Epidemic Preparedness of the International Federation of the Red Cross before joining Resolve to Save Lives, also said “the world will not be safe until people step up by mobilising and effectively using global, country, and local resources – including money and trained, supported public health staff”.

“How can we prevent a child in Ukraine from contracting measles, or a nurse in Sub-Saharan Africa from getting Ebola? Our website not only communicates the risk of epidemics at the country level, but, most importantly, encourages action to reduce these risks.”

A key feature of PreventEpidemics.org is the ReadyScore, a measure of country preparedness based on existing data from the Joint External Evaluation (JEE), an external assessment developed by the World Health Organisation and partner organisations to help countries find and close gaps in epidemic preparedness.

ReadyScore uses JEE data to calculate a numerical score – from 0 to 100 – representing a country’s ability to prepare for and respond to an epidemic.

Nigeria’s ReadyScore is 39. Resolve to Save Lives considers countries with a ReadyScore above 80 as better prepared for an epidemic, countries between 40 and 79 have work to do, and countries below 40 are not ready.

Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on the warning, Oyewale Tomori, a professor of virology, agreed that Nigeria still has a long way to go in terms of preparedness and response for the next unknown epidemic.

He said the country is not yet were it should be in terms of emergency preparedness and diseases response.

This, he said was evident in the diseases outbreak experienced in the country in the last few years.

“During the Ebola outbreak we were just lucky. It was not like we did anything spectacular. The good news was that Taylor was already sick with the disease before he came into the country. If he wasn’t and the disease was till in incubation stage as at the time he landed and made his way to Calabar, which way his main destination, many people would have been infected and it would have been a great calamity because we won’t know what to quickly look for,” he said.

Mr Tomori lamented that despite the Ebola incidence and the various diseases outbreaks, the nation is yet to learn lessons and understand there is a need to be prepared against the next disease outbreak.


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