Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Saturday took delivery of critical medical equipment from the Economic Community of West African States – ECOWAS/WAHO (West African Health Organisation) to help Nigeria’s COVID-19 response.
The equipment worth $8 million including two ventilators, some made in Nigeria equipment like hand sanitizers, face masks and face shields, were handed over to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 at Premier Medical Warehouse, Jabi.
Receiving the items, the chairman of the PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, said partnership works and it was only by through partnership that the world could overcome the pandemic.
Mustapha, who was represented by Mr Olusegun Adekunle, Permanent Secretary-General Services Office- (GSO), Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF), said that the pandemic had been devastating not just on the African content but also at the global level.
The SGF urged the member states to recommit themselves to the fight against COVID-19 to safe the region.
He said that the response to COVID-19 is an ongoing process that requires a rapid and flexible response that should be based on listening, verification and commitment.
Mustapha stated that the pandemic was not over and the region cannot afford to let up on their commitment to one another.
He listed three major reasons the virus has continued to spread around;
‘They are my colleague so I can speak without the mask.
‘They are my close friends so I can speak without the mask.
‘They are my relations so I can speak without the mask. Don’t do the above three mistakes… save yourself and others,’ he explained.
Mustapha, however, commended ECOWAS/WAHO for the donations, noting that some of the items were scarce commodity being chased after by some other countries in desperate need of them.
‘We acknowledged that the donations are useful. The items are being chased globally, even if you have resources you might not get it.
‘The donation is gratifying because hundreds of medical personnel have been infected perhaps due to lack of kits. It will be used judiciously and it will be accounted for. We received these items with thanks,’ he said.
The Director-General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Prof Stanley Okolo, said all the goods handed over were procured with the grant provided by the German government through the German Development Bank (KFW), BMZ, German International Development Office and the GIZ.
He said the coronavirus is going to be around for some time hence the need for citizens to get into the habit of modifying their behaviours.
Okolo said if the people embrace respiratory, never leave the house without a face mask, practice social distancing, the virus curve will flatten more quickly.
He said WAHO which came into existence 33 years ago by the decree of the Heads of States and government, is happy with its achievements for the region and will continue to do more.
Ludwig Kitchener, GIZ-ECOWAS Cluster Coordinator and Representative of the German Government noted that the ECOWAS region as at July 10th had recorded 90,000 cases.
While commending remarkable efforts to contend the spread of the virus in the country, he noted that the donated items are crucial for the fight of the pandemic.
He said the cooperation between GIZ and WAHO started in 2016 through the regional programme, Support to Pandemic Prevention in the ECOWAS region, which is for regional surveillance, preparedness and control architecture for infectious diseases.
Kitchener said GIZ is currently supporting its partners to respond to the COVID-19 crisis through technical assistance in training health personnel, assistance in risk communications and coordination activities.
He said GIZ in May distributed 31,500 bottles of pocket-size Nigerian produced hand sanitizers through WAHO to the region.
Other personal protective equipment donated include 56,000 disposable gowns, 91,000 protective overalls, 21,000, goggles, 11,000 face shields and over 150,000 masks in total.
He assured of continued support from the German government and GIZ.
President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean Claude Kasi Brou, in his remark, said the critical equipment will help Nigeria fight the pandemic.
He said the Commission has been coordinating support between member states and partners, adding that the equipment donated is a combination from the GIZ, ECOWAS and WAHO.
Brou noted that some of the goods were procured locally as a way of supporting local industries.
He called that the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government at its extraordinary session via video conference on 23 April, where it discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sub-region, appointed Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari as the champion of the organisation’s COVID-19 response coordination.
He said Buhari has already provided facilities and logistics support to ECOWAS which include a warehouse for storing all procurement of medical commodities and planes for distribution of the items to the region.
Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire said the choice of Abuja by ECOWAS and WAHO, as the central hub for receipt and distribution of regional supplies of medical products and equipment for the fight against COVID-19, is an indication of the confidence reposed on the country.
He said: ‘We shall play our role in providing support to our fellow member states in the ECOWAS subregion, to fight this disease outbreak, of which President Buhari was recently designated champion of the COVID-19 response.’
He noted that the PTF was set up to lead the whole-of-government response strategy and determine non-pharmaceutical measures to ensure the safety of citizens.
Ehanire added: ‘Our health workers are toiling assiduously to treat COVID-19 patients, provide emergency care, while not losing sight of routine and essential health services. They all need our support and encouragement and I believe that the provision of these test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE)will generate even more peace of mind to facilitate their work.”
In his remarks, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General, Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), said that the biggest standout difference in the response to COVID-19 in the country and the 2014 Ebola outbreak was increased collaboration across West African Health Institutions, as demonstrated by the support received from ECOWAS and WAHO.
Ihekweazu said that the response COVID-19 were almost six months into the response to COVID-19 and it often feels like mission impossible.
We’re grateful for the medical supplies received and offer our commitment to account for each and every one of them as we respond to this outbreak,’ he stated.
PTF coordinator Dr Sani Aliyu said the pandemic requires global solidarity if they want to get out of it.
He described the pandemic as a unique one that doesn’t respect borders and individuals, adding that 700 Nigerians have been lost to the virus, while half a million have been lost globally. He said: ‘It is not an infection that we can continue to ignore but working collaboratively and effectively we will be able to get on top of this.’
The items donated 12,800 googles, 50,000 pairs of small gloves, 100,000 pairs of medium gloves, 144,000, pairs of medium gloves, 5,050 medium gowns, 13,120 small gowns, 5,050 large gowns, 8,190 coveralls, 1,600 full-face shields, 10,000 surgical masks, 5,000 bottles of 70mls sanitizers produced in Nigeria delivered by GIZ on behalf of the German government, 40,512 diagnostics test kits, 40,512 viral transport medium, 40,512 extraction kits, two ventilators and two ventilators trolleys.