…As biosecurity threats cost Africa $420bn

By Chioma Obinna

The Lagos State Government said it has become urgent to protect the residents of the state from the next infectious disease outbreak even as the Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, Dr. Richard Munang, said Biosecurity threats cost African countries over US$ 420 billion.

Disclosing the state plans to protect the state, the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu who spoke at the 8th African Conference on Health and Biosecurity themed: Strengthening Health Security and Mitigating Biological Threats in Africa” said their strategy to protect the state rests on three major pillars of health systems strengthening, molecular genomic suite infectious disease research that will be driven by policy.

Sanwo-Olu who was represented by the State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi said the state has already started weaving Pandemic Preparedness into the Fabric of the health system with its fit-for-purpose pandemic-ready healthcare facilities, improved conditions for health workers, making them comfortable, and reversing the brain drain.

“We have continuously invested in the capacity of the Lagos State Biobank to sequence variants of infectious diseases. We believe that Genomic sequencing will determine the future pace of healthcare in Lagos State.  We are implementing a robust research agenda for Lagos State. We are building the Lagos State Infectious Diseases Research Institute. Our fit-for-purpose blueprint health facilities are convertible to Isolation Centres in the event of a pandemic. We will promulgate the appropriate laws to drive our plans.”

Also, speaking at the event, the Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, Dr. Richard Munang, who disclosed that Biosecurity threats cost African countries over US$ 420 billion stressed the urgency for solutions and that the urgency for one-health cannot be overemphasised.

Munang puts Africa’s biosecurity and biosafety capacity at only 32 per cent.

He explained that the One Health approach, which integrates human, environmental, animal, planet, and health, were critical to averting, managing, and treating biosafety risks on the continent.

Munang said that climate change, pollution, and Environmental degradation are aggravating infectious diseases in Africa and globally.

He said that the solution was One Health, an integrated approach complementing human medicine.

“Our UNEP work on climate action nature action and pollution action offers a strategic pathway for One Health.”

He said the contribution of the environment as a solution to biosecurity threats cuts across controlling temperatures which catalyse the growth of pathogens, restoring degraded areas to minimise the impact of habitat loss that increases the risk of pathogens transfer to humans.

Speaking as the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said the conference seeks to develop a biosecurity roadmap and increase the African continent’s resilience toward building the capacity to deal with pathogens of high consequence.

Abayomi added that the conference would ensure that the continent strengthens its health security to mitigate biological threats and consolidate the gains made in tackling different emerging infectious diseases.

“A city like Lagos is vulnerable to biological threats making it important for us to improve its preparedness against biological threats and build appropriate infrastructure to manage and mitigate dangerous pathogens of high consequence.

“The continents have continued to work to build the appropriate infrastructure, train and improve the capacity of appropriate personnel to be able to manage dangerous pathogens such as Ebola, Lassa Fever, COVID, Yellow Fever, Marburg Fever and any agent that is considered to be a pathogen of high consequence.”

On his part, the Chief Operating Officer of GET Consortium, Dr. Ayodotun Bobadoye explained that the conference brought together policymakers, scientists, academia, non-governmental organizations, and security experts both within and outside the country.

Bobadoye said that the conference focused on how the continent can effectively mitigate the impact of emerging biosecurity threats.

He called on governments to take the issue of biosecurity very seriously, adding that, with the increase in frequency and intensity of biological threats in infectious diseases in recent years, there is no better time to have the conference to discuss mitigating biological issues.

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