In view of the emerging threats of disease outbreak from flood disaster, Nigeria and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have commenced training of about 350 rapid response medical personnel to deal with any health emergency.
The launch of the training programme came just as WHO stated that flooding situation in the country had become overwhelming with 3,219,780 affected persons, 1,427,370 displaced persons, 2,776 injured, 612 deaths, 305,407 houses damaged.
It also said 18,093 suspected cholera cases have been reported in 256 Local Government Areas of 31 states as at November 2, 2022.
In a speech delivered at the opening ceremony of the capacity building programme for rapid response team to deal with possible infectious disease outbreak, Representative of WHO in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Molumbo said the plan was to provide national and subnational Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) with the key knowledge and tools needed to detect and effectively respond to public health emergencies as they occur.
“WHO is expected that at least 350 Nigerian Core Responders are trained and ready to deploy within the first 24 hours of an emergency,” he said.
While highlighting the importance of the initiative with the theme: “Capacity Building, Learning and Training to On-Board the AVoHC SURGE Team, the WHO Representative said preparation and early rapid execution of outbreak response strategies are critical in detecting, containing, and mitigating the spread of potentially dangerous infectious diseases.
He said enhancing global health security (GHS) required holistic and coordinated sustained national and sub-national actions to ensure a faster and more equitable response.
According to Molumbo, emergencies, disasters, and other crises were increasing in number and magnitude daily in Nigeria, affecting thousands of vulnerable and unprotected people.
“The situation is not promising to improve soon. As of 2nd November 2022, 18,093 suspected cholera cases have been reported in 256 Local Government Areas of 31 states (CFR 2.6 percent). About a 41 percent decrease in the number of new suspected Cholera cases observed compared to the previous two weeks, where 3,990 suspected cases were recorded
“Currently, the flooding situation has become overwhelming with 3,219,780 affected persons, 1,427,370 displaced persons, 2,776 injured, 612 deaths, 305,407 houses damaged, 176,852 hectares of partially damaged farmlands and 392,399 completely flooded damaged farmlands in 35 States as of 24th October 2022,” he said.
Mulombo said the ability to deliver an early and effective response required government and institutions to be prepared collaboratively for new outbreaks, adding they must be ready to respond, “nationally, sub-nationally and locally before an attack becomes an epidemic or pandemic.”
He stated that the main objectives of the SURGE training was to train and prepare a workforce that could be called upon when needed – drawn not only from the WHO but mainly from the States, civil society, and volunteers
In addition, he said the purpose of the SURGE was to provide surge support to countries that must rapidly mitigate crises.
Speaking further on the need for such an intervention, Molumbo said the Nigeria health emergency context was now more challenging, rapidly changing, and chaotic, and that most times, response operations were in insecure environments.
He also said inadequacies in emergency preparedness leads to slow and poor response in decision-making.
“SURGE training will complement better structures to enable national authorities to mobilise human resources and supplies once emergencies are declared quickly.
“There is a need for better structures to quickly mobilise human resources and supplies at all all-levels once emergencies are declared, which COVID-19 has exposed and intensified,” he said.
Relevant ministries were selected to train seventy-five (75) volunteers and government employees to serve as SURGE members and perform the functions laid out in the Incident Management System (IMS) for four weeks on five modules.
They were drawn from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Nigerian Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP), State Ministry of Health (SMoH), Federal Ministry of Environment (FMoEnv), Ministry of Defense (MoD), Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD), National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIA), Nigerian Police Force and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.