Africa is facing a growing health crisis exacerbated by factors such as natural disasters like cyclones, droughts, conflicts, floods, and civil unrest, the World Health Organisation has said.
The continent which boasts rich biodiversity and ecosystems that foster close interaction between humans, livestock, and wildlife, is currently grappling with 125 disease outbreaks.
A Senior Adviser at the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Hendrick Ormel, said in a recent statement that Africa’s unique geography, provides fertile ground for zoonotic diseases and that more than 60 percent of these diseases originate from animals, particularly wildlife.
His words: “The reasons are not far-fetched; it is because of the geographical location and the interaction between wildlife, livestock and human beings. It is also because of poverty and corruption. All these are part of the reasons why we have these outbreaks of diseases.”
Poor communities often lack access to basic healthcare services, clean water, and proper sanitation. As a result, diseases like Covid-19, cholera, yellow fever, measles, and even polio find conducive environments to thrive.
Ormel said further: “We cannot change the climate or the geography, but it is extremely important that we implement measures to address gaps in health security and emergencies. The implementation is very important, and this is needed in hospitals and the farm.
“For Nigeria, you need to be able to detect diseases as soon as possible, because the sooner you detect it the easier it is to respond to the outbreak.”
He stressed that bolstering healthcare systems, especially in underserved communities, was essential, including improving access to healthcare, sanitation, and clean water.
Ormel added that sharing knowledge, resources, and expertise can significantly enhance Africa’s disease preparedness and effective responses require collaboration between countries, international organizations, and healthcare providers.
He urged the Nigerian government to enable the implementation of the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) to address gaps in health security identified by the Joint External Evaluation, the lessons from Covid-19 pandemic and other emergencies.