Private sector and public health collaboration for emergency preparedness in Nigeria
In 2014, Nigeria experienced an outbreak of Ebola virus disease. In our country where warm greetings are the norm, Ebola changed our reality as people no longer shook hands or hugged. Several businesses and schools closed down, organisations (banks, etc.) that stayed open had buckets of water and hand sanitisers for their customers. Most people lived in fear of the unknown.
During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, several private sector players showed a keen interest and support for health security. From paying for staff time at Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) to procuring vehicles and donating Personal Protective Equipment, the private sector rallied around to support efforts of the Government of Nigeria. Infact, Nigeria’s highly acclaimed successful response could not have been possible without the critical role of the private sector. Historically, our response to infectious disease outbreaks has been reactive with limited private sector engagement, and it appears that since the crisis ended, we have all gone back to sleep. We must however realise that we can do much better and must not wait for the next Ebola outbreak.
The Government of Nigeria seems to have increased its own engagement in contending with Public Health Emergencies through the agency of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). In 2018, NCDC led the development of a National Action Plan for Health Security. This is a comprehensive multi-sectoral plan that established a projected cost of 81 billion naira to ensure Nigeria builds the capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks over five years. In 2019, NCDC’s budgetary allocation was only one billion naira only. In the unlikely case that this was multiplied by ten, the country’s national public health institute would still not have the funds required to protect us from outbreaks. This further highlights the need for public-private partnerships.
It is very obvious that private sector and businesses are at a high risk of severe losses when there is a major outbreak. Therefore, the private sector needs to be proactively engaged in building a strong and resilient health security structure, and not sit on the fence. Investment in issues such as roads and bridges are seen as more viable that in vulnerable health systems. The private sector has a critical role to play in response to outbreaks.
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