The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared Nigeria free of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on October 20. The country earned the status having not recorded any new case of the disease in the preceding 42 days. The WHO Country Director in Abuja, Dr. Rui Gama Vaz, described Nigeria’s exemplary handling of the outbreak as a “spectacular success story.” It is, indeed, a commendable achievement.
With this declaration, Nigeria has become the second country to be confirmed free of the EVD by the global health agency since the current outbreak of the disease in Guinea, early this year. Senegal was the first to attain the status. For successfully containing the disease, Nigeria has received global praise. Other countries still battling with the scourge now are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, United States of America and Spain.
It will be recalled that a Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, brought the EVD to Lagos on July 20 on his way to Calabar for a conference of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). From Lagos, the disease was transmitted to Port Harcourt. Out of the 19 recorded cases of the virus in the country, seven people, including doctors and nurses died. Since inception, the disease has killed over 4,992 in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where about 70 percent of those infected succumbed to it. A total of 10,141 people were confirmed by the WHO to have contracted the disease worldwide.
We commend the Federal Government, President Goodluck Jonathan and the governors of Lagos, Cross River and Enugu State, for their efforts in the battle to kick Ebola out of Nigeria. We also recognise and appreciate the efforts of all other stakeholders and the development partners who contributed to the containment of the disease. Nigerians cannot but recognise the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health under the former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; Port Health Services; Ministries of Health of Lagos, Enugu and Rivers States; the WHO; United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); MSF and other partners in containing the Ebola disease.
Special mention goes to Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who identified Patrick Sawyer as having the virus and stopped him from spreading it. With a population of more than 170 million, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, partly due to her diligence, Ebola has been officially defeated.
Kudos should also go to Nigeria’s health workers, volunteers and ordinary Nigerians who rose up to the Ebola challenge. They should keep up the good work and remain vigilant. The former Health Minister, in particular, also deserves praise for the way he managed information relating to the Ebola problem, especially the way he kept Nigerians abreast of information on the pandemic. We commend his openness and forthrightness on the Ebola saga to other public officers in the country.
The success of the battle against Ebola in Nigeria is particularly heartwarming because it saved the nation what could have been a monumental tragedy, and also gave the world a reason to applaud us. For a country that has virtually become the whipping boy of the world, and is mostly in the news for the wrong reasons, this is something to cheer.
But, the nation’s Ebola-free status is not an award medal that we can keep in the national archive while we go to sleep. It calls for even more action to ensure that our borders are effectively shut against the disease. The challenge now is how to sustain this status and ensure that the virus does not have a chance to threaten Nigeria again. For as long as the virus continues to rage in other countries, Nigeria remains at risk and we must not let down our guard.
One important lesson from the way we successfully tackled Ebola is that Nigerians are capable of achieving great feats only if we are united. This is a useful lesson that our leaders and policy makers should readily appropriate in tackling some of the nation’s challenges. With unity, no problem is insurmountable to Nigerians, no matter its magnitude. If we cooperate on the nation’s other challenges, as we did in the effort to overcome EVD, there is no doubt that we will overcome many of our problems and Nigeria will be a much better place to live in.
The lessons of this great Nigerian story should be incorporated into our work ethics and our attitude towards development issues. We tackled and defeated Ebola disease simply because we believed in the cause and were determined to succeed. The nation’s approach to the Ebola battle should inform our attitude to the other problems confronting our country.
To retain our Ebola-free status, however, we must not be complacent. We must remain vigilant, especially at our various borders. We also enjoin the people to continue to maintain high personal and public hygiene, as if the disease is still around. Government should also not relax in regularly dishing out necessary public health information. We should keep up all those good practices that contributed to the Ebola success story. All states and local governments should strive to ensure high level of public hygiene in their domain, and continue to pay special attention to the prevention of the spread of diseases in their schools and other public places.