Between the 14th and 17th of March 2017, The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control hosted its 2nd Annual Surveillance Review Meeting at the prestigious Nike Lake Resort Hotel in Enugu State in the South Eastern part of the country. This 2017 edition of the Annual Surveillance Review Meeting provided the opportunity for colleagues at the frontline of disease surveillance in Africa’s most populous country not only to engage with one another, but also to feedback on their work at state level and the attendant impact.
The first edition of the meeting held in Ibadan, Oyo State in 2016 where all states participants (State Epidemiologists and Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers) were charged with carrying out surveillance-related reforms in their respective states. The 2017 edition therefore served as an opportune time to review, reinvigorate and re-launch efforts towards stronger disease surveillance in Nigeria. States took turns in providing an update on activities carried out in the previous year, showcasing accomplishments and challenges. They also shared the results of their individual SWOT analyses, which served as a framework for state-focused national planning for 2017.
The meeting served as a platform for high-level knowledge exchange among participants. There were four panel discussions which reviewed different areas of Global Health Security Agenda such as best practice in disease surveillance, global health security and control of viral hemorrhagic fevers, use of digital tools, disease control efforts at points of entry, training and capacity building for frontline surveillance officers amongst others. These discussions yielded an in-depth appraisal of current nationwide activities and initiatives aimed at protecting the health of Nigerian citizens.
The keynote speech of the meeting was delivered by Prof. Ezeokoli who laid emphasis on the concept of “One Health” with particular emphasis on how colleagues in animal and human health had successfully worked together in the past to address the important health issues of the day and why this has now been recognized as the way forward for the future for health care delivery and research which aims to deliver a healthier world.
A great moment at the meeting was in the afternoon of Wednesday 15th March, when the news broke that the Federal Executive Council, in Abuja, had approved the NCDC’s bill to proceed for legislative approval through the National Assembly. The announcement marked a major milestone in the activities of disease surveillance and response in Nigeria.
Sessions ended with state-led presentations on strategies and next steps; these were compiled in a communiqué that was disseminated at the meeting. Worthy of note is the strong need for state level advocacy towards robust support for surveillance by state governments across Nigeria. Participants also agreed to take ownership of surveillance activities in their respective states, with acknowledgement of the need for sustainable support of partners.
The NCDC expressed its gratitude to the World Health Organisation, the US Centers for Disease Control, Africa Epidemiology Network, the University of Maryland, Baltimore Nigeria Office and Pro Health International for their support in making the meeting a success. The Director of Surveillance of NCDC, Olubunmi Ojo said, “The success achieved at the meeting was as a result of the dedication of participants from states, and the generous support of our partners.”
The National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said, “This meeting is my first direct interaction with all state colleagues as the CEO of NCDC. It is therefore an opportunity to further create the much-needed national alignment around our priorities at the NCDC and enumerate how states can ensure our impact is felt across the country. It is a joy to see the quality of deliberations, and engagement by all the states and partners at this meeting. This is clearly in support of my expectations that everything we have identified here will be addressed before the next meeting”. He urged partners to “work with us and not for us” – Chikwe Ihekweazu, CEO NCDC
As all the epidemiologists and disease surveillance officers dispersed to their various states, there was a palpable sense of urgency in terms of working harder to protect the health of Nigerians.