Health Security: NCDC rates Ebonyi high in immunization, below average in health emergency preparedness

By Oswald Agwu

Ebonyi State has scored top rating in Vaccine coverage, access and delivery as part of indicators for health security under immunization.


The state however, scored a below average of 25 percent rating in terms of the overall health security assessment bordering on general capacity to effectively prevent, detect and respond to threats of public health significance.


The rating was contained in the state’s Joint External Evaluation report on the sub-national Health security assessment conducted in 2023 by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NCDC in collaboration with the state government.


The document tagged “Ebonyi Mission Report” was officially presented to the state Ministry of health during a dissemination and State Action Plan development workshop kicked-off Monday in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.


The Workshop was organised by the NCDC in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health, supported by the USAID- Breakthrough Action-Nigeria.


Presenting the report, the NCDC National Team Lead for the State, Dr Lois Olajide, explained that the report was an outcome of the sub-national compliance to the International Health Regulations, 2005 which Nigeria is a signatory to.


She noted that at the national level, Nigeria voluntarily conducted her maiden Joint External Evaluation in 2017, and commended Ebonyi state for taking the lead among states who have keyed into the programme.


Olajide explained: “Following the mid term review, and because of the revised JEE tool, it became evident that similar IHR core capacities are required at the sub-national level and an assessment needed to be conducted to ascertain pandemic preparedness across states in Nigeria using a validated tool and methodology.


“The need for this assessment became even more evident at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.


“Working with Ebonyi state, the assessment was conducted between 5th and 7th June, 2023.


“The adapted health security assessment tool for states in Nigeria was used as well as the WHO adapted Benchmark tool to validate the self-assessed score.


“Overall, the ready score for Ebonyi state is 25%.”


Explicitly, the report scored Ebonyi very low in prevention capacity: legislation and policy, financing, zoonotic disease management, safer health facilities and multisectorial coordination and health security governance but scored Ebonyi highest with 4 points in the aspect of immunization.


Under capacity to detect, laboratory system, surveillance and reporting as well as Human Resources for health were also rated low.


Under emergency response operation, the state made a slightly significant score on capacities, procedure and plans but also scored lowest in emergency preparedness, medical countermeasures and personnel deployment as well as risk communication.


Meanwhile, the report as presented further commended the state for observing best practices in terms of stakeholders commitment, transparency on the part of State team, effective use of incident management system as a coordination mechanism during emergencies, as well as strong immunization coverage, including hard to reach areas.


The report recommended among other things, sustainable budget line for emergencies, strengthening multisectorial collaboration, review of obsolete laws and policies as some of the approaches towards strengthening health security in the state.


The state Commissioners for Health and Information, Dr. Moses Ekuma and Engr. Jude Okpor respectively, who took turns in responding to the report appreciated the NCDC and it’s partners for the event.


They emphasized that the present Governor, Francis Nwifuru, has invested so much in the health sector from the inception of his administration, and expressed optimism that if the report were to be conducted at present, there could have been tremendous improvement in the statistics.


Ekuma pledged to work assiduously to ensure that all the recommendations in the report would be given the desired attention to ensure improved health security capacities in the state in line with the People’s charter of needs principle of the government.


In a welcome address, the state Director of Public Health, Dr. Hycainth Ebenyi, urged participants to show utmost diligence in the workshop.


The Workshop scheduled to last for 6 days, 11th to 16th March, 2024 is expected to birth the State Action Plan on Health Security.


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