The Federal Ministry of Health through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has formally announced the inclusion of three new laboratories into the national yellow fever/measles/rubella laboratory network. The three new laboratories are the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Edo, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu and NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.
In 2017, Nigeria adapted the Eliminate Yellow fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy, a global initiative led by WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to support at-risk countries in strengthening their surveillance and laboratory capacity to respond to yellow fever cases and outbreaks. The strategy is also to support countries including Nigeria, in the elimination of yellow fever outbreaks.
Towards achieving the goals in the EYE strategy, Nigeria has increased the number of laboratories with the capacity to test for yellow fever from four to six. These laboratories are located across the geo-political zones and will serve the country as follows:
• University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Edo State: South-South States
• University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu State: South-East States
• NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Gaduwa, Federal Capital Territory (FCT): North-East States
• Maitama District Hospital, FCT: North-Central States
• Yusuf Dansoho Memorial Hospital, Kaduna: North-West States
• Central Public Health Laboratory, Lagos: South-West States
The NCDC National Reference Laboratory is also working towards full accreditation to serve as reference laboratory for yellow fever.
In announcing the formal inclusion of the laboratories, Director General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said ‘To build Nigeria’s capacity in line with global standards, we are officially activating three new laboratories, a necessary addition to our existing laboratory network for yellow fever, measles and rubella. These laboratories are also part of the global WHO laboratory network. The new laboratories in Edo, Enugu and the FCT will improve our coverage and ensure timely detection and response’
Representing the tertiary institutions, the Chief Medical Director of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Professor Darlington Obaseki stated that he is grateful for the inclusion of UBTH in this important laboratory network. He also promised to ensure that the standards required are maintained for full functionality. The Chief Medical Director of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Dr. Obinna Onodugo also expressed his optimism in the value that the laboratory will provide in serving the South-East region of the country and reducing dependence on other laboratories.
The Officer-In-Charge of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Clement Peter Lasuba reiterated the commitment of WHO and partners to support the strengthening of Nigeria’s public health laboratory. He said ‘We are very proud of this milestone and fully recognise NCDC’s leadership in this regard. The inclusion of these three new laboratories will strengthen the national diagnostic capacity; a critical step for Nigeria’s health security. WHO will continue to support the development of public health laboratory services in Nigeria’.
In addition to WHO, other partners that support the national yellow fever/measles/rubella laboratory network include the US Centers for Disease Control and Resolve to Save Lives. NCDC also works closely with its sister-agency the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the National Arbovirus and Vector Research Centre (NAVRC), in the prevention of and response to yellow fever outbreaks.
Yellow fever, measles and rubella are vaccine preventable diseases. It is important that Nigerians ensure their children are immunised, to prevent the spread of these diseases.