The Nigerian government and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) have collaborated to safeguard the nation’s borders effectively from the perils of infectious diseases and other potential public health risks. Emphasising the significance of robust border security, Dr. Farah Husain, the organisation’s Director of the Global Health Protection Programme, asserts that fortifying global health security commences with the establishment of strong border defences. In a press conference held in Abuja, she explained the paramount importance of border health in detecting and reducing potential hazards linked to the transmission of illnesses among individuals entering or exiting the nation.
According to Husain, the gateway through which small outbreaks transform into global pandemics is a matter of concern. In order to establish strong health systems at borders, it is imperative to have current plans and procedures in place along with adequately trained staff. She also mentioned that enforcing and implementing laws, policies, and regulations play a vital role in this process. The CDC collaborates with Pro-Health International Support and Port-Health Services partners to accomplish numerous tasks related to this matter.
Nigeria forms an alliance to enhance border health security.
Speaking further, she acknowledged the recognition of accomplishments in the recent Joint External Evaluation (JEE) score, and emphasised that there remains a considerable amount of work yet to be accomplished. Her explanation describes her desire to reaffirm the CDC unwavering commitment to collaborating with the Nigerian government through Port Health Services. She additionally described their collective aim to combat and tackle potential public health challenges effectively, ensuring prevention, detection, and response measures are in place.
Dr. Muhammad Saleh, the Senior Emergency Management Specialist of the US CDC Nigeria, elaborated on the concept of border health. He explained that this particular branch of public health is dedicated to managing the health issues of individuals who are constantly on the move and the communities they visit before, during, and after their travels. Its primary goal is to ensure the well-being of travellers throughout their entire journey, regardless of whether they are exploring their own country or venturing internationally. One of its main focuses is to identify and address any potential risks associated with the transmission of diseases. In light of Nigeria’s commitment to advancing the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and its progress towards this goal, the US CDC emphasised the importance of border health within the country during the discussion.
Points of entry can amplify the likelihood of disease transmission.
Additionally, he stated that Nigeria faces numerous outbreaks of infectious diseases every year. These outbreaks pose a significant risk to the country, mainly when they originate in the surrounding regions. The movement of people across points of entry, such as porous ground crossings, further amplifies the likelihood of disease transmission, escalating both the risk of disease entering Nigeria and the risk of it spreading beyond its borders. Also, he mentioned that the implementation of strategies is backed by the Port Health Service (PHS), which is a subdivision of the Federal Ministry of Health through the US CDC. He explained further that Pro-Health International also acts as an implementing partner for enhancing border health, employing diverse tactics such as POE surveillance, staff capacity building, and passenger screening.
He added that they contribute to border health by providing assistance in various aspects of Nigeria. This includes guidance in leadership, management, and funding through initiatives such as GHSA and the CARES Act. According to him, they actively engage in advocacy efforts and work towards improving the quality of Points Of Entry (POE). He described the importance of technical assistance to enhance outbreak preparedness for diseases like Marburg, Ebola, and Anthrax. They also support cross-border surveillance capacity development master training programs and offer expertise in public health emergency management for PHS
Several points of entry remain unrecognised by the government.
Lastly, Dr. Akpan Nsibong, the Director of Port Health Services within the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, acknowledged the notable progress made by Nigeria in enhancing its border health security. He emphasised that Nigeria could indeed set an example for the entire West African region. However, Dr. Nsibong highlighted that there are still obstacles to cross-border surveillance. Specifically, he pointed out that certain points of entry remain undisclosed and unrecognised by the government. He further mentioned that their count of approximately 60 points of entry includes some individuals whose presence is unauthorised, representing a potential menace to the nation.