The United States of America has pledged unwavering support to assist Nigeria in heightening surveillance at the country’s Points of Entry (POE) to prevent the import, and spread of infectious diseases and other public health threats.
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) Division of Global Health Protection Programme Director, Dr. Farah Husain disclosed this on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, at a round table session with the Media held in Abuja.
Dr. Husain stated that, achieving global health security starts with achieving strong border health security. She said border health was critical in identifying and addressing risks associated with the spread of disease among travellers coming into and going out of the country.
“It is the gateway from a small outbreak to becoming a global pandemic. Robust border health systems require up-to-date plans and procedures and they require well-trained staff, laws, policies, and regulations that enforce to implement of travel measures, affecting the movement of people and goods for public health purposes.
“US CDC through our partner, Pro-Health International supported Port Health Services to achieve many of these activities which we would highlight today and these achievements are reflected in the recent JEE score. There’s still a lot of work to be done, I want to reiterate that CDC would continue to remain a committed partner to the government of Nigeria with port health services to help the country prevent, detect, and respond to these public health threats”, she said.
On his part, Director of Port Health Services in the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Akpan Nsibong who appreciated the USCDC’s support opined that “if we are not able to tackle the health security of every citizen of this country, then we stand the chance of rendering the health of every Nigerian to a very big risk”.
He, however, pleaded with the US CDC to expand its work and have wider coverage:
“We want to ensure that we have the presence of Pro-Health in all our Points Of Entry especially to strengthen the surveillance more than what we have. This is important because we cannot predict the next disease outbreak in the country.
“And if we cannot contain any of these diseases in Nigeria, then we are automatically putting Africa, especially our neighbouring countries at risk.
“We still have a challenge as a country on the issue of cross-border surveillance. In the country, there is still some point of entry that we still need to strengthen”, he said.
Highlighting some of the challenges faced at the country’s entry points, the Director said:
“We still have challenges, in some of the POE we have in this country, which we tend to ignore, in Nigeria today, there are some points of entry that are enclosed and not known officially to the government. We have about 60 POEs but the illegal ones can be a threat to the country”, Dr. Nsibong lamented.
In his presentation, Senior Emergency Management Specialist, US CDC Nigeria, Dr. Muhammad Saleh said Nigeria had made substantial gains in improving its border health security and could serve as a model for the West African Region.
Therefore, the US CDC would continue to support the government of Nigeria to strengthen its core capacities in surveillance, laboratory, workforce development, and emergency preparedness and response to combat public health threats across the country’s POEs.