Temple Chima UbochiMonday, October 27, 2014
Bonn, Germany




Continued from Part 2

A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed (Henrik Ibsen)

Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive; and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done (Benjamin E. Mays)

The disease needs to be eliminated from every country of the world. It is only then that each country can breathe a sigh of relief. As long as there is a case of EVD in any part of the world, every country of the world, every human being in this planet remains at risk (Outgoing Health Minister, Prof. Chukwu)

hat may have saved Nigeria here was the dreadful and ravaging nature of the disease. It forays into anywhere without differentiation, otherwise the highly placed and the mighty would have pushed it over to the poor. Due to no sabotage here, a rare feat in Nigeria, success became the result. If there was sabotage, failure would have been the story. There was success here because Ebola is deadly and doesn’t differentiate between classes, races, sexes or ages, as it can kill the rich or the poor; the white or the black, the Fulani or the Hausa or the Ibo or the Yoruba or the Efik or the Ijaw or the Tiv or the Gwari or the Ibibio or the Esan etc; the male or female, the young or the old; the highly placed or the downtrodden; the strong or the weak; so, those whose passion is to scuttle every good thing in Nigeria couldn’t do anything here, because, they didn’t know who next the victim may be. Everybody was living in fear!

The battle is over, but not the war, WHO rightly said! Unfortunately, the ugly Nigerian factors are creeping back, as this column learns that many Nigerians have started thinking that it’s Uhuru yet, and do no longer worry about the disease, as all protocols put in place hitherto have been removed. We read that cashiers, at some banks, are neither using hand gloves nor were there hand sanitizers stationed anywhere for customers to make use of. In some banks and offices, hand sanitizers, which were supposed to be at the reach of workers and customers, are now missing. Some of the measures put in place in the heat of the Ebola outbreak, such as the provision of disinfectants, hand sanitizers and bleach, which were put in conspicuous places at hospitals, homes, offices, clubs, restaurants etc, are no longer to be seen in many of those places. There’s still need to continue with the precautionary measures, as another outbreak of the disease cannot be entirely ruled out, United States of America (USA) and Spain are still struggling against the disease. Many attributed the lull, in the preventive strategies in public places, to the recent declaration that Nigeria was free from EVD, as that may have erroneously discouraged some people from attaching more seriousness to efforts aimed at checkmating the disease.

Many are warning against any complacency as the risk is not over yet. The World Health Organization also cautioned Nigeria, saying that the declaration does not mean that the country is free from another potential importation of the case. In fact, according to officials, with close neighbors like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia still battling to curtail the disease, another infection is not impossible. As such, Nigeria has been tasked not to loosen its guards. More than ever before, Nigeria should be more vigilant and ensure preparedness for any other possible imported case. The WHO Representative in Nigeria said "It must be clear that the war has not ended, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola. While the outbreak now is officially over, Nigeria's geographic positions and extensive borders make the country vulnerable to additional imported cases of the Ebola Virus Disease. It is therefore, necessary to continue vigilance for any suspected cases by strict compliance with the WHO’s EVD preparedness guidelines. Therefore, there is need to continue to work together with all states to ensure adequate preparedness and rapid response in case of any potential re-importation."

The outgoing health minister, Prof. Chukwu, charged those coming after him not to lose focus, but to remain vigilant. He urged Nigerians to continue to maintain routine hygiene and sanitation practices. He said that although the World Health Organization has declared Nigeria Ebola-free, it is instructive to note that feelers across the nation indicate that the caution hitherto put in place to curb the spread is now lax. Epidemiologist Chukwe Ihekweazu, while advocating that greater knowledge about Ebola is likely to help in reporting any new cases, also warned Nigeria against celebrating its Ebola-free status. In his words “It's premature when you see the situation in West Africa right now. There's still a lot to do. It's not the right time to celebrate". Vertefeuille from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while admitting that Nigeria was better equipped to deal with any future Ebola cases, rightly noted, there was "no equal level of preparedness everywhere in the country". Shuaib of EEOC acknowledged that isolation centers have now been identified in most Nigerian states, while six laboratories have been accredited by the WHO to conduct Ebola tests, but, raised concerns about funding, and Vertefeuille concurred, saying that the federal authorities had been slow to match state government funding for the outbreak, which would be vital for tackling any new cases.

The outgoing minister of health’s parting words are important: "Nigeria has won the battle against Ebola Virus but this world war rages on on other fronts in other countries. The war certainly is not over. A reinforced Ebola Virus could still invade Nigeria. Given this risk of possibility of re-infection, there is need to maintain the state of high alertness at all our ports of entry. We cannot afford to lower our guard. This risk and the risk to other countries can only be eliminated through the setting up of a system similar to the Nigerian one under the leadership of the United Nations but with the operational wing built around ECOWAS. The disease needs to be eliminated from every country of the world. It is only then that each country can breathe a sigh of relief. As long as there is a case of EVD in any part of the world, every country of the world, every human being in this planet remains at risk. Unlike an ordinary unwanted guest, the Ebola Virus is an unwanted guest whom the unwilling host cannot send away from his premises, but at best must accommodate in his boys quarter, feed the virus until either the virus dies or the host dies. This metaphor explains the much that can be expected from a country's health system as far as EVD is concerned. Nigeria like other countries will not have the control over the presentation of the disease at any of its ports of entry. However, it is the responsibility of the country's surveillance system to ensure that any case presenting at any of our ports of entry is rapidly identified and isolated. That is the only way the country will remain safe from the Ebola Virus Disease pending its global elimination. I would therefore, urge the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies to remain watchful, while I urge Nigerians and other residents of Nigeria to sustain and even improve upon the new level of sanitation and personal hygiene practices."

Lagos state government also disclosed diverse plans to prevent any chance of another EVD outbreak, noting that “the state is not out of the wood yet” with the disease still endemic in other West-African cities. Idris who described the outbreak and the eventual containment of the Ebola in the state and the country as phenomenon, adding that, out of 9,000 cases globally till date, Nigeria has contributed only 0,22 percent and 0.18 percent to global burden of suspected, probable, confirmed cases and deaths respectively. He explained that 891 cumulative number of contacts were recorded nationally, 365 in Lagos and 526 in Rivers while contacts that completed 21 days follow-up nationally is 890, Lagos 365 and 525 in Rivers and a total of eight deaths recorded in all. The Commissioner also listed all the preventive measures to be taken by the state government affirming that the containment success was unique because the country`s case was the first urban case in decades.He said that the consequences could have been very disastrous if the country had not deployed creative, results-oriented strategies in the containment of the disease. According to Idris, the effective response of the Federal Government and the state government to the disease ensured that the country had the lowest cases and the lowest number of deaths. Idris congratulated Nigeria on the certification, adding that the development should encourage all stakeholders to redouble their efforts and protect the country`s new status by eliminating the risk of new infections. Idris said the state government would continue to strengthen the various health structures to ensure that the disease was gone forever. In his words: “We spent the early part of our intervention in containing the disease and reducing deaths. We will however not disband the structures put in place but rather sharpen their effectiveness and efficiency, and the government would be supporting the survivors of the disease to get on with their lives after their horrific battles with the disease“.

If we can join hands to tackle Nigeria’s multiple problems the way Ebola Virus Disease was handled, there would be hope on the horizon that Nigeria would pull through someday soon. Alphonsus Ogbaekwe wrote: This is great news and for the first time in a longest time; I am proud to say “I am a Nigerian!” If Nigeria stay course and tackle every problem both social and economical (the same way), the lives of our citizens will change for good. I thank those men and women who put their lives on the line to save their follow human beings and the country and made their country proud. For those doctors and nurses that lost their lives in the discharge of their duties, may our nation remember them as heroes and may their soul rest in perfect peace”.

President Jonathan in welcoming W.H.O. Declaration Of Nigeria As Ebola-Free , dedicated the certification to the many patriotic health workers, volunteers and ordinary Nigerians who worked tirelessly, some of them paying the ultimate price, to stop the deadly virus in its track after it entered the country in July this year.The President also seized the opportunity to also reiterate his appreciation of the contributions of state governments, WHO and other international health organisations, relatives of infected persons and other Nigerians who either courageously underwent the rigours of being quarantined or complied with all directives issued by health authorities to defeat the virus. He believes that Nigeria’s globally-acclaimed success against Ebola is a testimony to what Nigerians can achieve if they set aside their differences and work together, and calls on Nigerians to strive to replicate the unity of purpose and all-hands-on-deck approach adopted against Ebola in other areas of national life. He warned that as the nation applauds the success of its collective effort to stop the transmission of the Ebola Virus within Nigeria however, the entire country must remain fully alert and vigilant against the re-entry of the virus. President Jonathan fully shared the view expressed by WHO, in its congratulatory message to Nigeria, that while we have won a battle against Ebola, the war will only truly end when West Africa, Africa and the world are declared free of Ebola. The President consequently directs that all the anti-Ebola measures taken after the entry of the virus into the country should remain in place and that health officials should continue to actively screen persons entering the country through its air, land and sea borders for any sign of the virus. He also urges all Nigerians to continue to follow the anti-Ebola advisories on sanitation and personal hygiene issued by Federal and State Health authorities. This writer hopes that the President will now lead all Nigerians to face and defeat all the other problems besetting Nigeria the way Ebola was defeated. Let’s fight corruption the Ebola way:








Continued from Part 2