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Epidemics: WHO harps on effective, health system

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The fight to curb epidemics anywhere in the world would not achieve reasonable results, if there are no strong and effective health systems in place, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

This is as the world health body applauded the media for being at the front line in the battle against epidemics and other health issues in the country.

The Country Representative of WHO, Walter Kazadi Mulombo who spoke at the 3rd Nigeria Health Watch Prevent Epidemics Journalism Awards tagged “Celebrating Media Excellence for Epidemic Preparedness and Response” in Abuja, said there is no single pathway to epidemic prevention if the health systems are not strong.

The WHO representative said all countries must find their way in the context of their own social, political and economic circumstances in preventing epidemics.

WHO representative added that, everywhere there must be a political commitment to building a strong health system, based on primary care, with an emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion.

Mulombo said, such health systems do not only provide the best health outcomes, but are also the best defence against outbreaks and other health emergencies.

The WHO representative who was represented at the event by the Medical Officer of Emergency Programming and Response, Victor Tugumizemu at the event stated that the recent COVID- 19 pandemic and other emerging diseases, such as Lassa Fever, and Cholera among others have revealed the gaps in the epidemic preparedness of many countries, including Nigeria.

He said if the situation is not checked, it can result in terrible danger.

According to him: “WHO Member States face increasing numbers of emergencies with health consequences from all hazards, including infectious disease outbreaks, conflicts, natural disasters, chemical or radio-nuclear -spills and food contamination.

“Many emergencies can be complex, with more than one cause, and can have significant public health, social, economic, and political impacts.

“WHO has specific responsibilities and accountabilities for emergency operations under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) and within the global humanitarian system as the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) Global Health Cluster Lead Agency. Recently.

“WHO launched its USS 2.54 Billion 2023 health emergency appeal fund to assist millions of people around the world idd5 health emergencies.

“As the health cluster leads for emergencies, WHO is currently responding to the urge of the most vulnerable people in 54 ongoing graded emergencies around the world, 11 of wind reeds of classified as Grade 3, WHO’s the highest level of emergency, requiring a response at all three levels of the organization.

“Furthermore, the number of people in need of humanitarian relief is increasing by almost a quarter, compared to 2022, to a record 339 million.

“As we speak, the number of high-threat infectious hazards continues to rise: some of these are re-emerging and others are new.

“The outbreaks of vaçcines preventable infectious diseases, such as meningococcal disease, yellow fever and cholera, can have disastrous effects in areas with limited health infrastructure and resources, and where timely detection and response are difficult”.

Within this mandate, WHO in December 2022, collaborated with the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) to support and build the capacity of 50 of its members to leverage their role in strategic communication, towards raising health high on the political agenda of the government, empowering audiences, giving communities a voice, and creating safe spaces for decision-makers and citizens to discuss challenges and co-create solutions that address health needs of the people.

In preparedness for the emerging threats from outbreaks, WHO recently supported the Government of Nigeria to develop a workforce of 83 national-level trainers from different sectors that are well-equipped for strengthening emergency preparedness and response and ready to deliver coordinated, integrated, and equitable public health action in times of emergencies.

The trained rapid-response workforce is equipped to deal with any health-related emergencies.

“This is in line with WHO’S Commitment to strengthen regional and subnational capacities to
prepare and respond to public health emergencies in an increasingly globalized, urbanized, and connected world where people, vectors, and goods are on the move, giving rise to and amplifying threats from a multitude of infectious hazards, natural disasters, armed conflicts, and complex emergencies.

“Additionally, WHO provided medicines, other supplies, training for doctors and other health workers, vaccines, enhanced disease surveillance, mobile clinics, mental health support, maternal health consultations and much more.

“WHO delivers cost-effective, high-impact responses that protect health, lives and livelihoods.

“From January to December 2022, Nigeria NCDC reported 1067 confirmed cases of Lassa fever, with 187 deaths; up to October 2022, the number of confirmed cases of Mpox was 604, other diseases such as cholera, meningitis, yellow fever, diphtheria have burdened the health system. Currently, the country bears the highest burden of tuberculosis and pediatric HIV, while accounting for 50% of neglected tropical diseases in Africa.

“Although the prevalence of malaria is declining (from 42% to 23%), the country contributes 27%% of global cases and 24% of global deaths. NCDs account for 29% of all deaths in Nigeria with premature mortality from the 4 main NCDs (Hypertension, Diabetes, Cancers, and Malnutrition) accounting for 22% of all deaths”, he further stated.

Also, the Nigeria Coordinator, Prevent Epidemics, Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Mr. Emmanuel Alhassan said prevention is always better than cure, which is “why we must all collaborate with journalists to ensure that governments make the necessary investments and take the issue of health security in Nigeria more seriously.”

He maintained that working with partners is essential for expanding this advocacy work, and collaborations with organizations such as Nigeria Health Watch will ensure the health security of Nigeria is strengthened.

Speaking earlier, the Managing Director, of Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, said the importance of epidemic preparedness and the role of media in achieving this cannot be over-emphasized.

Ihekweazu, while commending the winners, urged other journalists to shift attention to epidemic preparedness and adequate health funding.

The high point of the event was the award given to Journalists for their efforts in epidemics prevention promotion .

The winners were: Mrs Ezedimbu Ogom of the African Independent Television (AIT) who clinched the award for the television programme category, Mrs Nike Adebowale-Tambe of Premium Times clinched the award for the Print and Online category and Mrs Blessing Enebeli of Voice of Nigeria VON won the radio category.



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