WHO, ICAO commend Nigeria for quick response to Ebola outbreak

The World Health Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation on Monday again commended Nigeria for efforts made to contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country last year.

The organisations gave the commendation during the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation Assistance visit to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.

They said Nigeria’s effort was a clear indication that the country was making progress in the implementation of the WHO International Health Regulations at her points of entry.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Ebola was first reported in Nigeria in July 2014 when a Liberia-American man, Patrick Sawyer, tested positive to the virus after arriving in the country through the MMIA, Lagos.

Twenty persons contacted the virus while eight casualties were recorded before Nigeria eventually overcame the problem and the WHO declared Nigeria Ebola-free on October 20, 2014.

Michael Vreedenburgh, CAPSCA Programme Global Coordinator at the ICAO Headquarters, said the people and government of Nigeria must be given credit for the successful containment of the virus.

Vreedenburgh said the voluntary technical visit was a follow up to CAPSCA’s visits to the country in 2009 and 2011.

According to him, the aim of the visit is to assess the preparedness of the aviation sector, taking into account the priorities established by the WHO to contain outbreak of communicable diseases.

He said: “Public health remains an area of great concern because outbreaks can occur for any reason, anywhere and at anytime.

“In addition, the visit will promote and facilitate communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration between the public health sectors in the handling of public health event.”

In his remark, Dr. Harry Opata, Disease Surveillance Response, WHO/Africa Regional Office, said the organisation was keen for countries to implement its international health regulations which came into effect in 2007.

Opata said: “I would like to congratulate Nigeria for the quick containment of the Ebola Virus Disease last year.

“Nigeria has made a lot of progress and we are happy with the leadership role of Nigeria in the implementation of the international health regulations in the region.

“We look forward to seeing more of this leadership from Nigeria and we hope this would affect all member states in the West African area.”

On her part, Dr. Morenike Alex-Okoh, Director, Airport Health and Medical Services, Federal Ministry of Health, sued for sustained inter-agency cooperation in the implementation of the aviation act point of entry in Nigeria.

Alex-Okoh said the ministry was delighted with the visit given the fact that previous visits had contributed in no small measure to the successful implementation of public heath emergencies at Nigeria’s points of entry.

According to her, the successful containment of Ebola in Nigeria was achieved through collaboration at the global, national and states’ levels.

Similarly, Captain Usman Mukhtar, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, commended aviation stakeholders for playing pivotal roles in the containment of the virus.

Muhtar said: “I want to use this opportunity to appreciate stakeholders in the Nigeria aviation sector for their professionalism and quick containment of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in 2014.

“Some of you risked your life and the lives of your families for the general good of the country.

“This inter agencies collaboration, coordination, cooperation and communication displayed in the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak must be sustained to enable us effectively handle any suspected case of communicable disease in our airports.”

Muhtar announced that the Federal Ministry of Health recently produced a document on National Aviation public Emergency Preparedness Plan.

He said the document, drawn mainly from the template provided by ICAO, would serve as a guiding material for the handling of suspected cases of communicable diseases within the Nigerian airspace.