“Even the great get greater by doing more of it” –Colleen Wainwright
It takes only about 36 hours for an infectious disease to spread through our borders. Nigeria is vulnerable to these health threats because of our tropical climate, high population density, and constant movement across borders. Preparing for the next outbreak or public health emergency involves securing our points of entry (our seaports, airports and ground crossings). This cannot be done in silos. Cross-sector and cross-border collaborations along with strong emergency management structures and systems are crucial to improving Nigeria’s health security.
The Integrated Response for Public Health Emergencies in Nigeria [IRPHEN]+ Project is a project funded by the US Centres for Disease Control (US CDC) and implemented by Pro-Health International as its primary partner. Between the months of May to November 2021, we worked with PHI on the first phase of this project which was to work with key stakeholders at 10 points of entry (POEs) in 8 states around the country to develop public health emergency management systems. This involved developing Public Health Emergency Contingency Plans (PHECPs), testing those plans through simulation exercises, and establishing Public Health Emergency Management Teams (inter-agency teams working together and responsible for health security and the PHECPs) at each point of entry.
Building on the successes and lessons we learned from the first phase of this project, the second phase, putting the PHECPs to use, required us to build more capacity to scale the project and add 3 new points of entry, making 13 locations total:
To achieve success, we needed to train our existing Project Officers and add more capable hands to implement the second phase of this project as we expand.
We held a 3-day residential onboarding and project inception meeting for our team (old and new team members), from the 2nd to 4th of February, 2021 in Lagos, Nigeria to:
The 22 participants who were present included all the DRASA staff (13) involved in executing the IRPHEN+ Project at the various points of entry, select staff from the central coordination office, and from the Pro-Health International team.
Sessions included presentations on infection prevention and control (IPC), maintaining and sustaining PHECPs at the POEs, referral and safe transfer of suspect/ill travellers, risk and crisis communication at the POEs, cross border engagement and public health information sharing, social and behaviour change communication and integrated disease surveillance and response, to mention a few.
The workshop also included a work planning session as well as a training on financial management, reporting and retirement, conducted by the staff from Pro-Health International.
As a country, our travel and trade activities will be safer if all hands are on deck to fully implement PHECPs at the various points of entry. This, we believe, is one major way to protect the health of Nigerians and our neighbouring countries and to prevent the economic damage caused by disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. Now we are ready to hit the ground running as our teams return to their respective locations and begin implementation. It will not be easy, but we are confident that by the end of this project we will have made a significant impact in improving Nigeria’s health security and emergency preparedness across all implementation sites.