Presidential Steering Committee crucial to success of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response — Mamora

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MamoraThe Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, says the Presidential Task Force, which later metamorphosed into the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, contributed to the success of the Nigerian COVID-19 response.

Mamora said this at a two-day special National Council on Health meeting on Thursday, in Abuja with the theme “The Journey to Attaining Sustainable Development Goals: Applying Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic Towards Building A Resilient National Health System”.

The News Agency of Nigeria, reports that the 2014 National Health Act recognises the NCH as the highest policy-making body within the Nigerian health sector. The responsibilities of the NCH include the protection, promotion, improvement and maintenance of the health of the citizens of Nigeria and the formulation of policies. The Council is also tasked with ensuring the delivery of basic health services to the people of Nigeria.

The minister said that the approach also showed the importance of multisectoral involvement in addressing health system and service delivery challenges.

“Therefore, going forward there is a need to build on these learnings and gains to ensure mainstreaming health in all policies. This is because several determinants of health are not particularly within the purview and jurisdiction of the ministry of health but other sister ministries.

“We now have new evidence that shows the impact of multisectoral collaboration in moving public health interventions forward.  Existing and new relevant platforms can be leveraged to bring all stakeholders together to build a resilient and responsive health system that will propel the nation towards achieving SDGs,” he said.

He said that before the pandemic, the use of digital technologies in health was limited.

Mamora said that based on key learnings, the country had deployed digital technologies in both clinical and public health settings as part of the response strategy to the pandemic and these had further advanced effectiveness and efficiency.

“Some other measures include the use of telemedicine and guided telephone calls in consultations and service delivery, use of SMS in prescriptions and follow up, use of virtual platforms in training healthcare workers.

“Others include use of mobile apps in contact tracing and adverse drug reaction reporting and tracking, use of video calls to enable patients to have contact with their relatives during quarantine, isolation and treatment.

“The use of social media for health promotion, tracking fake news and addressing myths and fake information constitutes part of our strategy. These innovations have been shown to contribute to making our health systems more responsive.

He continued, “On this account, we will evaluate our investments in digital health to identify gaps that must be bridged and built upon through the use and application of digital technologies in healthcare delivery.

“This is because our COVID-19 response experience has shown that digital technology can be leveraged upon to bridge gaps and deficiencies in all facets of our health system and can be further maximized as an efficiency tool and instrument that will aid our national pursuit of the SDGs targets,” he explained.

Mamora reflected on the gains and challenges based on the strategies that were deployed at the early stages of the response to the pandemic; noting that there was the closure of international borders which consequently resulted in the scarcity of medicines and medical consumables.

“This challenge gave the country a push to look inwards to harness our in-country capacity for the local production of medical products and consumables.

“For instance, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research produced COVID -19 PCR and rapid test kits, hand sanitisers, PPEs, and face masks during the closure of international borders.

“The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development also produced sanitisers and some other medical products. Currently, the Federal Government is working towards advancing local vaccine production strategies.

“This initiative will not only increase the availability of local medicine and vaccines but also contribute to the economic development of the country and human capital development. Furthermore, the pandemic resulted in reprioritized investments in public health preparedness infrastructure,” he explained.

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