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Edo Launches Integrated Public Health Emergency Operation Center for Early Disease Detection, Management

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Edo Launches Integrated Public Health Emergency Operation Center for Early Disease Detection, Management

…center to serve south-south geo-political zone

Violet Osatohanmwen Obamwonyi

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has launched the Edo State Integrated Public Health Emergency Operation Center (PHEOC), as part of sustained efforts by his administration to strengthen the health sector for real-time emergency and disease management.

The Centre which was commissioned by the United States Consul General, Williams B. Stevens, on Tuesday May 21, 2024, in Benin City, is expected to provide adequate surveillance data on disease conditions, health behaviors, and facilitate early disease detection, which would enhance decision-making processes on public health issues.

Speaking during the event, Governor Obaseki noted that, given the harsh lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Center was long overdue, which resulted in the state collaborating with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Health Organization (WHO), and other partners to achieve the significant milestone.

According to Obaseki, “The present Integrated Public Health Emergency Operation Center (PHEOC) arises from the need to strengthen the surveillance for early case detection and improve our response to public health demands.

“The PHEOC is set up to effectively respond and coordinate public health emergencies and ensure adequate surveillance data on disease conditions especially the priority diseases which we are tracking in Edo, like measles, Lassa fever, cholera, Covid-19, diphtheria, yellow fever, monkeypox, and other emerging and re-emerging diseases.

“It would also serve as a hub for public health situational awareness, daily pathological intelligence gathering and risk analysis of emergency events of public health importance which are needed for decision making. We believe that institutions such as this are critical in preempting and managing crises especially when data is readily available to study trends, spot outlines and prepare for effective response in matters of emergency.

“We saw this during the Covid-19 pandemic and that informed our openness and willingness to receive support to set up an institution like this. Covid-19 brought to the limelight the need to strengthen prompt responses to public health emergency outbreaks and other priority diseases of public health importance.”

The Governor who noted that the facility is fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, visualization tools and dashboards, for all public emergency needs and informed decision making, as ably supported by Edo State Government, USAID and other implementing partners in the state, such as NCDC, NACA and WHO, stated that the Centre is one among few in the country that have been upgraded to address public health events, while integrating disease surveillance and response.

Highlighting the distinction between the PHEOC and the recently launched emergency centers in the state a few weeks ago, Obaseki said: “A couple of weeks ago, we launched the emergency response centers where we are training emergency responders to deal with emergency situations which they find in their communities. But this is different because we have seen from Covid, there could be outbreak at any point in time and we have suffered quite a few in Edo State.”

Speaking on the project’s sustainability, the Governor expressed gratitude to Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, former Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), for his support in establishing the Edo State Infectious Disease Isolation Center in 2020, which laid the foundation for the Integrated PHEOC. He noted that the state government’s investment in technological infrastructure, capacity development for health personnel, implementation of a novel health insurance scheme, and the support of various partners, will enhance the healthcare system and improve service delivery, ultimately reducing disease outbreaks.

Expressing gratitude to partners, while acknowledging their crucial roles and contributions in establishing the facility, Obaseki remarked: “I want to appreciate our visiting Consul General and his team from the US Embassy and his colleagues from the affiliated US agencies, particularly USAID. we would not have been here today but for their generosity and commitment in helping us fight this culture of disease in our country.

“I want to appreciate all the partners who have worked on this project. I am really thrilled to find out that I have amazing partners who have done a great job. The Edo State Government wishes to express its gratitude to USAID, Data for Implementation (Data.FI), for the support given to the state over the years in improving the health of Edo residents.”

On his part, the US Consul General, Lagos Nigeria, Williams B. Stevens, while stressing on the significance of utilizing emergency centers, observed that it is the primary responsibility of government to prioritize the people’s well-being.

According to Stevens, “It is the job of the government to take care of the people and today, I think this is a symbol of democracy, delivering to the people and responding to the needs of the citizens and working to make the state healthier and safer.

“We are grateful for the health partnership we have with Nigeria. When Covid happened, we moved to a center that allows real-time data on testing and treatment. The case numbers, morning calls with the Governor and the command center do exactly that. All that led to where we are today, where we have an integrated emergency operating center for other responses across the entire state and region, and it is something I think speaks to the incredible work of Nigerian partners.”

Earlier in his welcome address, the Edo State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Samuel Alli, expressed gratitude to the Governor for his steadfast support and dedication to the state’s health sector, noting that the center is strategically designed to function as a central coordination hub for monitoring infectious diseases in real-time.

Alli said: “We are gathered here to formally commission the Edo Integrated PHEOC. This building will offer integration with various health agencies and departments ensuring the coordinated and unified response to health emergencies. It is a sophisticated provision from the government to monitor infectious diseases, respond quickly and effectively to outbreaks, minimize impacts and ensure the safety of our people.

“By leveraging advanced technology and data analytics, we can try to detect outbreaks and implement timely interventions. The center will serve as a nerve center, facilitating real-time communication and data sharing among health professionals and technologists. All these tools including our surveillance system, data analytic tools and communication will help us to detect and respond to health threats more effectively and accurately. This center, although presently serving Edo, is expected to serve the six states in the south-south geo-political zone, until all those states activate or put in place their Integrated PHEOC.

“All of these would not have been possible without the enormous support of our excellent Governor. Thank you for making the health sector one of your priority areas, we are seeing the evidence of all your hard work. I also want to thank our able partners USAID, Data.FI, WHO, Heartland Alliance and many others. With your dedication and unwavering support, let us ensure that this center fulfils the mission of safeguarding the health and well-being of our people.”

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