Nigeria needs N134bn to strengthen national health security – Official

Prof. Isaac Adewole. Minister of Health
Prof. Isaac Adewole. Minister of Health

Nigeria needs to mobilise N134 billion over the next five years to enhance national health security in line with global standard.

The Executive Officer, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Centre (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, stated this at the launch of the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) in Abuja on Monday.

NAPHS is a comprehensive multi-sectoral document that sets out a strategy for strengthening health security of the country. Developed by NCDC in collaboration with other relevant government agencies, NAPHS is a five-year strategic plan to be executed from 2018 to 2022.

The document includes agreed upon objectives based on gaps identified by health security assessment, including the Joint External Evaluation (JEE), and Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) assessment, public health risks in the country context and strategic priorities of the involved stakeholders.

Present at the launch was the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, service chiefs, other ministers and DGs from the agricultural sector, science and technology, and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. Representatives of the World Bank, World Health Organisation and other development partners working in the health and security sector also attended the event.

Mr Adewole launched the document. In his speech, the minister said the document will serve as a guideline for Nigeria to achieving health security. He said developing the document became necessary after the country was scored low on preparedness for disease management and control.

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Mr Adewole said Nigeria was scored 39 per cent after a broad review of the country’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to threats to health by a Joint External Evaluation (JEE).

“The JEE involved many agencies of the government, voluntary organisations and several international partners who identified gaps in Nigeria’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to public threats and prioritised key recommendations. I am very proud that today, we are steps closer to strengthening our health security capacity,”’ he said.

Mr Adewole said the national plan is needed as a guide for success because health security involves not only the health sector but all sectors working towards national security.

“Considering our large population and position in Africa as a whole, the successful implementation of the plan will contribute significantly to the overall goal of improving national, regional and global health security.

“It is not a matter of if but when a global epidemic will threaten the safety and security of our citizens. We need to be prepared to protect all Nigerians against future epidemic threats,” he added.

The enhancement of a national health security is crucial to the safety and development of a nation because diseases can cross national boundaries through human or animal migration. This is one of the reasons relevant agencies in the agriculture, environment, transportation, Nigeria Armed Forces, among others are needed to safeguard the country from epidemics.

Over the past two years, Nigeria has confronted deadly outbreaks of measles, yellow fever, monkeypox, Lassa fever, cholera and meningitis which led to the death of many people.

Most of these diseases were confronted with vaccination but more needs to be done as preparedness, early detection and response remained a challenge. This was evident in the meningitis outbreak in 2016 in which 1,116 people died from the disease before it was declared over.

Mr Ihekweazu said the government of Nigeria is strongly committed to protecting the health of its citizens.

He said NAPHS covers all the 19 technical areas required to effectively prevent, detect and respond to public health threats.

The estimated cost for implementing all planned activities for the five years is N134 billion ($439 million). The major driver in the plan is the immunisations plan under the Nigeria Strategy on Immunisation and Primary Health Care System Strengthening (NSIPSS), which is N81 billion ($265 million) or 60 percent of the total cost.

“It has evaluated the strength and gaps in its public health system and developed the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) as a roadmap for building critical capacities and establishing coordination with all of Nigeria’s ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs),” he added.

Mr Ihekweazu explained that Nigeria will be able to fund the plan through domestic financing and international partners.

Also in his remarks, the Acting Country Representative, WHO, Peter Lusuba, said scaling up and financing the implementation of the international health regulations are vital for building sustainable capacities to detect and respond to emergencies.

Mr Lusuba who represented the WHO DG, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said though keeping the world safe is one of WHO’s top priorities, global health security is a shared responsibility.

“Every country is concerned – we are strong as our weakest link. Ultimately, the best defence against outbreak and other crises is strong resilient health systems based on people-centered primary health care. Therefore security and universal health coverage are two sides of the same coin,” he said.

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