The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Resolve to Save Lives, an NGO, have stressed the need to strengthen public health at national and sub-national levels to boost emergency response.
The organisations said this at the Sub-national International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 Legal Assessment Training of Legal Officers in Nigeria held on Monday in Abuja.
The event was organised by NCDC in collaboration with Resolve to Save Lives.
Deputy Director, Surveillance/IHR, NCDC, Dr. Oyeladun Okunromade, said that the need to overhaul public health had become imperative to tackle lingering challenges in the sector.
She reiterated the call to strengthen public health laws to ensure that policies were put in place on public health events to expedite emergency response to any health challenge.
Okunromade said, “There is a need to have an up-to-date legal instrument, the essence is to strengthen IHR implementation as well as core capacities of health security in Nigeria.
“IHR is to build a resilient health system that will prevent, detect and respond promptly to any public health event challenge; we need to ensure there are adequate resources to achieve all these.
“So, we keep advocating and ensuring we strengthen our public health laws to ensure that we increase the government’s allocations and the votes that are available for the implementation of our security.
“What informs the training is the need to strengthen the public health law generally.
“At the national, and not only at the national, we have realised that the laws do not even exist at the state level or there are no policies at the state level.’’
Okunromade said that there was a need to put policies in place in case of any public health emergencies to ensure that no particular person had such autonomy over the entire population within a particular space.
She said that legal practitioners were targeted to sensitise them to the need to strengthen the aspect of epidemiology.
“COVID-19 brought the public to the front on the need for legal epidemiology, which is to strengthen the public health law that guides prevention and detection as a response to public health events.
“So, we need the Ministry of Justice and legal practitioners to be part of the fight against these public health emergencies.
“This is in such a way that when there is an outbreak, each state would report to the next level on time.
“Also each state within its own space will be able to have policies that will guide the need to strengthen and build capacity to be able to respond within the state level.
“Also, each state will be able to vote enough resources within the capacity at the state level to health security to ensure that they prevent and protect the citizens within each state.”
Okunromade said that there was little that could be achieved as the country relied a lot on the international support for the implementation of IHR.
According to her, when the legal instruments and policies turn to advocacy around the percentage to be voted for health, security implementation can begin.
“So everything is tied to the legal instruments, the policies that are available, guiding the implementation of health security in the country.
“So we will keep advocating the governments to ensure that they vote enough resources for health security because it is like buying health insurance for the population,’’ she said.
Legal Adviser, Resolve to Save Lives, Mr. Cedric Aperce, said that the group is an international organisation working in the public health sector supporting cardiovascular programmes and the prevention of epidemics.
Aperce said that the organsiation supported NCDC by providing legal and technical expertise to them adding that a methodology to do a legal assessment at the national level was developed.
“Now we are going to dive into a sub-national view.
“Why we are doing this assessment is because of the international effort to get the international legal framework regulating the prevention and response to public health emergencies and other public health events.
“We do that to support NCDC to strengthen the public framework in Nigeria at both federal and sub-national.’’
Ms. Safiya Musa, Legal Advisor for NCDC, said that the objective of the workshop was to train legal officers from the 36 states and FCT.
This, Musa said, was on the toolkit NCDC developed with its partner Resolved to Save Lives on the assessment of state laws in compliance with international health revolutions.
“As you are aware, Nigeria is a signatory to international health regulation 2005 and NCDC is designated as a focal person for IHR in Nigeria.
“ So we are doing a legal mapping of all our laws, we have done the federal laws to see what are the impediments to compliance with IHR.
“Today we have gathered colleagues from the 36 states to train them on a toolkit developed on assessing the state laws to check for compliance with IHR 2005.”
According to Musa, this will impact a lot on health security as it is about international health regulations, a body of international laws specifically designed to coordinate response and respond to public health events.
She said that training the lawyers on the assessment of the laws would help in analysing and identifying the gaps in all the state laws.
She added that it would enable the beneficiaries to then find a way forward by developing a roadmap to bridge the gaps.