The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the federal government to prioritize health funding towards preparedness and prevention in the fight against disease outbreaks.
WHO representative to Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, made the charge at the third Nigeria Health Watch Epidemic Prevention Journalism Awards in Abuja over the weekend.
Dr. Mulombo, who was represented by Dr. Victor Tugumizemu, said it was necessary for all countries to find, prevent or stop epidemics, adding that Nigeria accounts for 50% of tropical diseases in Africa and contributes 27 % of global malaria cases and 24% of deaths. .
He said noncommunicable diseases account for 29 percent of deaths in Nigeria.
He said; “Currently, the country bears the highest burden of pediatric tuberculosis and HIV, while accounting for 50% of neglected tropical diseases in Africa. Although malaria prevalence is declining (from 42% to 23%), the country accounts for 27% of global cases and 24% of global deaths. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) account for 29% of all deaths in Nigeria and premature mortality from the four major NCDs (hypertension, diabetes, cancer and malnutrition) account for 22% of all deaths.”
He praised the organizers for facilitating strong collaboration with the media through the ‘Epidemic Prevention Project’, to increase public awareness and policy makers and demand for epidemic preparedness and foster understanding and support among Policy makers for funding dedicated to epidemic preparedness.
“This event underscores the need to meaningfully engage critical stakeholders to accelerate and make Nigeria and the world safer from epidemics with advocacy and action because we all know that epidemic outbreaks have multiple determinants, affect many people and require action by all of us gathered here today. ”.
However, he said that the recent COVID-19 pandemic and other emerging diseases such as Lassa fever and cholera, among others, have revealed the gaps in epidemic preparedness in many countries, including Nigeria.
“If left unchecked, it can result in terrible danger. Nigeria needs a preventative turn in the fight against disease by addressing the root causes,” he said.
He added that the WHO recently launched its $2.54 billion US Health Emergency Appeal Fund by 2023 to help millions of people in health emergencies around the world.
In her welcome speech, Nigeria Health Watch Managing Director Ms. Vivianne Ihekweazu said that poor healthcare funding makes us all vulnerable to outbreaks.
He said that health security should not be seen as the sole responsibility of the federal government, but that state and local governments should fund such initiatives.
Ihekweazu therefore called on Nigerians, in the spirit of election campaigns/voting for new leaders, to hold politicians accountable for improving public health.
In a goodwill message, the Director General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, hailed the critical role that the media plays in fighting epidemics.
Also Nigeria’s Coordinator, Prevent Epidemics Dr. Emmanuel Alhassan, said that the 2023 budget witnessed a drop in allocation to the health sector.
Ms. Karen Ezedimbu Ogom was the winner in the TV category, Ms. Nike Adebowale Tambe won in the Print/Online category, while Ms. Blessing Ifechukwu Enebeli won in the Radio category.