The World Health Organization, WHO and the Federal government of Nigeria are collaborating to ensure the availability of core responders that will be ready for response within 24 to 48 hours in the event of an emergency.
82 core responders were trained for five weeks on five modules in the programme aimed at providing national and subnational Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) with key knowledge and tools needed to detect and effectively respond to public health emergencies as they occur.
Speaking at the deployment ceremony of the trainees, the Minister of health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said, at least 100 emergencies occur across Africa per week, causing damage to health and economic systems.
He counted losing up to 50,000 women to childbirth, over 900,000 children and 6,000 people killed in road traffic accidents every year as huge emergencies.
According to him, about 17,000 people are maimed or disabled permanently every year owing to road accidents and they are all serious emergencies.
The Minister noted, that the SURGE initiative promotes availability of equipment, well equipped teams with everything streamlined to respond to emergencies within the specified time frame adding that there are public health emergencies that are already running quietly in the country hence the responsibility and mandate goes beyond public health emergencies.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Molumbo, on his part, said the organisation is committed to strengthening regional and sub national capacity to prepare and respond to public health emergencies in an increasingly globalised, unionised and connected world.
He stressed that people are always on the move and this has given rise to an amplifying threat of multiple infectious hazards, in addition to natural disasters, conflict, climate change and other emergencies.
The country representative, explained that the SURGE programme identified Nigeria as one of the five countries chosen and six states have been selected in Nigeria to kick-start this process.
According to him, we will be able to scale up the SURGE in the six pilot states but also go beyond to make sure that the entire country benefits from this initiative.
The six pilot states are Abia, Yobe, Kano, Lagos, Edo and the Federal Capital Territory.
Giving an overview of the programme, the Field Epidemiologist of WHO, Dr Kumdisha Balami, said that the initiative will build on existing infrastructure to put in place a well-organised support system that would augment government capacity when needed.
This, she said, would be by incorporating lessons from COVID-19, Ebola and other health emergencies.
She, said, they had proposed 350 core volunteers that will support emergency response in Nigeria but have started with 82 who are ready to deploy in the country.