LAGOS TO HOST AFRICA CONTINENT DISCOURSE ON HEALTH SECURITY AND BIOLOGICAL THREAT

In continuation of efforts to ensure that the Africa continent strengthens its health security to mitigate biological threats and consolidate on the gains made in tackling different emerging infectious diseases, the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Health is partnering with a non-governmental organization, the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment (GET) Consortium, to hold a three day discourse on One Health and Biosecurity, in Lagos Nigeria.

The Conference, titled the 8th African Conference on Health and Biosecurity, and themed: “Strengthening Health Security and Mitigating Biological Threats in Africa” is scheduled to hold at the Civic Centre, Lagos between Wednesday 2nd and Friday 4th November, 2022.

Giving details about the conference at a news briefing today, State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi said that the conference is the fourth in series of conferences organized by the Lagos State Government in partnership with GET, and the eight held around West Africa and the African continent by the consortium to help develop a biosecurity road map and increase Africa continent resilience towards building capacity to deal with pathogens of high consequence.

Abayomi who noted that the hosting of the conference in Lagos is significant, explained that Lagos State being low-line coastal city with high population density and a commercial hub in the sub Saharan Africa, is vulnerable to biological threats making it important for the State government to improve its preparedness against biological threats and build appropriate infrastructure manage and mitigate dangerous pathogens of high consequence.

In his words: “Lagos State government recognized early the need to improve preparedness against biological threats and this is why the State Government since 2015 has been collaborating with the GET consortium, World Health Organization, the United Nations, the ECOWAS through the West African Health Authority, the African Union and of course, the Federal government, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and various donor agencies like the Gates Foundation.

“So hosting this conference in Lagos, indicates to us that the African think tank recognizes that Lagos is a significant location for discourse and action on biosecurity and one health paradigm. We’ve been working a assiduously with these organizations to build the appropriate infrastructure, train and improve the capacity of appropriate personnel to be able to manage dangerous pathogens such as Ebola, Lassa Fever, COVID, Yellow Fever, Marburg Fever and for any agent that is considered to be a pathogen of high consequence.”

The Commissioner disclosed that the conference will draw experts from different parts of the world to share their knowledge and expertise on biological threats, discuss the global phenomenon of rising incidence of outbreaks and pandemics due to the way in which the global environment is changing and as well as proffer solutions to other environmental health and global health issues.

“We have experts from around the world coming into Lagos to share their knowledge and expertise around biological threats, biosecurity and the WHO concept of one health, and Lagos has been a consistent supporter of the one health paradigm.

“I implore everybody to take note of date, the 2nd to 4th  of November, register online and join us physically live at the Civic Centre or participate virtually as we are bringing in an extraordinary caliber of experts in to Lagos for three days to discuss the global phenomenon of rising incidence of outbreaks and pandemics” he said.

Abayomi noted that Lagos will be the chief recipient of the expertise that will be shared at the conference as the host adding that the State government will also use the opportunity of the conference to build collaboration that will help continue to strengthen the State biosecurity roadmap.

Speaking in the same vein, the Chief Operating Officer of GET Consortium, Dr. Ayodotun Bobadoye explained that over 400 participants from 30 different countries of the world is expected to participate at the conference the conference adding that the conference is an transdisciplinary conference that bring together different disciplines and different sources of knowledge to address emerging challenges in the area of health.

He noted that with the increase in frequency and intensity of biological threats in infectious disease in recent years, there is no better time to organize a conference to discuss mitigating biological threats than now.

“We are bringing together policymakers, scientists, the academia, non-governmental organizations, journalists, and security experts both within and outside the country to discuss how we can effectively mitigate the impact of emerging biosecurity threats especially on the continent of Africa.

“It is a hope that at the end of his conference we will come up with a communique based on the strategies discussed at the conference, the side events and everything that we will be doing in three days that will effectively address how we can contribute to strengthen our health not just in Nigeria but also on the continent of Africa and how we can mitigate this particular biological threat that’s continually with us as a people, as a nation, and as a continent.”, He said.

Bobadoye averred that any government, whether at the National, Sub-National or Regional level must take the issue of biosecurity and one health seriously if it wants to experience peace and sustainable economic growth.

“It is very important for governments to take the issue of biosecurity very seriously and this is why we are so grateful to the Lagos State Government for collaborating with the GET consortium to organize this conference in the last three years. This is a conference  that  have been organized in  different cities in Africa in the last eight years; this conference has been organized in Accra-Ghana, Freetown-Sierra Leone, Dakar-Senegal and in Abuja-Nigeria, and we are happy that in the last three years the government of Lagos State has collaborated with us to organize this conference in Lagos” He said.

Also speaking at the briefing, the Country Representative of World Health Organization (WHO) in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Molumbo acknowledged that the conference will help operationalize WHO’s one health approach in preparing and strengthening Africa’s capacity to address health security.

He noted WHO is working hand in hand with  the Nigeria government, and the Lagos State Government to transform approaches from preparedness, detection and response to outbreak exchange adding that the Director General of WHO has announced new strategies in supporting countries to prepare and respond to emergencies.

“WHO in the regional office, has launched three flagship programs; the first one addresses the capacity to prepare for emergencies; the second one addresses the capacity to detect early in order to respond in a timely fashion and the third one which is done in collaboration with Africa CDC, it’s about strengthening and utilizing the response group for emergencies. And Lagos State, understandably is one of the six pilot states to start that initiative.

“We want to work with Lagos and use Lagos example to scale up best practices, and from conference like this, I think we didn’t make a mistake by choosing Lagos alongside five other states and I’m happy that Lagos will be on track and contribute with the recommendation of this high-level events to the global economy when it comes to addressing emergency preparedness”, Molumbo said.

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