By Peter Amine
Dr Tom Frieden, President/CEO, Resolve to Save Lives, an International Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has advised the Nigerian Government to budget well and spend effectively on public health, especially on epidemics preparedness.
Dr Frieden, a former director of the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, gave the advice on Wednesday in Abuja at a media roundtable with some journalists on Nigeria’s epidemic preparedness.
Frieden said budgeting was crucial if Nigeria was to become better prepared to handle epidemics.
He pointed out that the NCDC had made good strides in the area of laboratory diagnostics and response, but that more needed to be done.
“We need steady investment and support to States and Local Governments as well as effective expenditure of national and international resources available,” he said, adding,“Show me your budget and I will tell you what your priorities are.”
Frieden further said that disease tracking systems were fundamentally important because they helped the government to measure the state of its epidemic preparedness.
The physician stated that one problem the organisation was looking at in Nigeria and globally was tracking the time frame for response.
“The time it takes between emergence of the disease, finding the disease, and studying the control measures is very important in tackling outbreaks.
“This is important because disease outbreaks spread exponentially if not controlled in time,” he said.
He advised states and local government public office holders to prioritise epidemic preparedness as a key factor that would help keep their populations safe.
According to him, having tracking and surveillance systems for key diseases in addition to good laboratories as well as rapid response are essential in saving lives.
Frieden further advised states to engage the right people and keep adequate data so that they could use that data to improve their performance.
He lauded the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for its commitment in handling disease outbreaks.
He encouraged the NCDC to continue with the culture of keeping and growing data and development of laboratories and surveillance.
“The support of state and local departments is crucially important, because an institution like NCDC is only important when the states and local governments have the capacity to perform,” he said.
Dr Elsie Ilori, NCDC Deputy Director Surveillance, said that many preparedness gaps were identified by the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) led by World Health Organization (WHO) in spite of some considerable progress.
Ilori said that NCDC was working in collaboration with Resolve to Save Lives to address the gaps.
The deputy director further said that Nigeria’s National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) was developed to serve as roadmap to fill the preparedness gaps identified by JEE.
Dr Ifeanyi Nsofor, Director Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch, stated that prevention of epidemics was cost effective and cheaper no matter how much was spent.
Nsofor encouraged the media to continue to harp on the need to fund epidemic preparedness initiatives by government.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that three prevent epidemics media fellows of Nigeria Health Watch presented reports of the stories they had worked on under the fellowship.