AU approves Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control as regional hub

Ambassador Maiyegun (2nd left) surrounded by other officials of AU and WHO at a Press Briefing at the end of their Visit in Abuja

The African Union said on Saturday that Nigeria will host one of Africa’s Centre for Disease Control, CDC.

Nigeria was favoured to host one of the region’s CDC after AU experts appraised the effectiveness of the Nigerian government in managing the Ebola scourge in 2014, as well as the recent outbreak of Lassa Fever.

The head of the AU delegation, Olawale Maiyegun, informed PREMIUM TIMES that his team came to Nigeria with a checklist of requirements that Nigeria needed to fulfil before the AU committee on CDC could ratify its nomination as one of the 5 approved collaborative regional centres for Africa-CDC.

“We are satisfied with our findings that Nigeria can be able to take on the triple responsibility of running the Nigeria-CDC, the Regional-CDC and African-CDC”, said Maiyegun, a Director in charge of Social Affairs AU Commission.

“The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, provided the impetus and the Heads of States and governments of the AU together with the executive council decided to fast track the establishment of the African-CDC.

In 2014, the Heads of states and government of the African Union at a Special summit on HIV, TBN and malaria, decided upon the need for an African Centre for Disease Control that will conduct life saving research, that will also have the capability for disease detection, surveillance and response.

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In January 2015, the Assembly also reaffirmed and asked the African Union to get to work; even though they gave clear instructions on the nature of the Africa-CDC that is to be setup.

“They want an African-CDC that will not reinvent the will, but build on an existing structure that will leverage on existing assets on ground”, Mr. Maiyegun said.

The concept approved by the African leaders in January 2015, was to have a coordinating office inside the AU headquarters in Addis-Ababa with five regional collaborating centres, each bringing certain capabilities, asset and values to the work of the African-CDC.

And the ministers of health of each member countries had recommended criteria for the selection of the regional collaborating centres and which country was to host the regional centres.

“We have to start with five – but they could be more than that as the CDC expands.”, said the Nigerian AU officer Maiyegun. “Each regions of Africa was to nominate the centres for the African-CDC; and we received nominations from all the five regions of the continents.

“Central African has nominated Gabon; East Africa nominated Kenya; North Africa nominated Egypt; the Southern African region nominated Zambia and West Africa Nominated Nigeria.

“The AU team has to visit the countries proposed to host the regional centres for African-CDC for on the spot assessment to ensure they meet the criteria contained in the article 26 of the CDC statue.

“The purpose of our mission is to see whether the Nigeria CDC which also doubles as a regional CDC for West Africa has indeed met those criteria contained in the statue. We are not comparing the countries hosting the African-CDC with each other, but we are evaluating and assessing them viz a viz the criteria contained in the statue.

The team’s point of reference was to assess “Government commitment, Human Resources, The infrastructure and Funding.”

“In all these, we are happy to note that there is strong commitment in the part of the government of the federal Republic of Nigeria and that was clearly demonstrated by the two ministers. We have seen the legal frame work and the one that is being put in place , which we feel is very strong and we hope that the efforts that will be made in the legal frame work to reflect the regional dimension of the Nigeria-CDC to be seen not only the Nigerian CDC but a regional one for West Africa, and a regional collaborating centre for the African CDC.

“We are happy to note that from what we have seen on ground that indeed the Nigeria-CDC can take those responsibilities that is about to be entrusted to it.

“We also looked at some of the strength that they are bringing to the table, we have found that they are bringing in strong human resources, a strong and powerful field epidemiological and laboratory training – which is a huge asset that will help in the fulfilment of the core capacity of the international health regulation.

One of the challenges that may affect the smooth running and sustenance of the Nigerian-CDC office is that the country has been notorious in not fulfilling its agreement on counterpart funding.

Mr. Maiyegun said his team strongly hopes the Nigerian government’s c commitment “will be translated into proper funding.”
“We will need more indication of continued funding, which is the strong political commitment being translated into budgetary support and financial allocation.”

The committee said Nigeria has an edge over other African countries to earn its coordinating status because it has some key healthcare infrastructures that other don’t have.

“Nigeria has a very strong Emergency Operating Centre (EOC) dedicated to polio; and government will need to decide on putting it at the disposal of West Africa and the continent as a whole and begin to use it for the larger public health under the CDC. We see this as a very powerful asset that Nigeria can put at the disposal.

Unlike other four African Countries hosting the sub-regional CDC centres, Mr. Maiyegun said the CDC facility in Nigeria could function as a centre with triple obligations: for Nigeria, as a regional hub and as Africa’s CDC coordination centre.

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