The United Nations says the novel coronavirus pandemic is threatening the progress made in global health over the past two decades.
The Executive Director, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Winnie Byanyima, stated this recently when the UN team held a half-day strategic brainstorming retreat with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 amid indications of a second wave of the pandemic.
Byanyima said, “COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains we have made against HIV. Only global solidarity and shared responsibility will help us beat the coronavirus, end the AIDS epidemic and guarantee the right to health for all.”
According to a statement by the UN titled, ‘COVID-19 in Nigeria: Know Your Pandemic And Know Your Response’, the retreat reviewed the current epidemiological status of the COVID-19 response in Nigeria.
“The retreat further acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed behaving differently in the Nigerian/African context, in terms of cumulative cases, severity of morbidity and case fatality rate. While the evidence is still evolving, it was suggested that the early and aggressive action by public health authorities, as well as a younger and healthier population, may have played important roles in preventing the worst from happening thus far,” the statement partly read.
In his remarks at the retreat, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, welcomed the adoption of a new language and approach from HIV – “know your pandemic and know your response”.
He said, “Knowing our pandemic and our response, allows the Government to decide when to shift our policies and strategies. National health-related COVID-19 Response Plan needs to be domesticated within activities of the various States in the country. To this end, a COVID-19 Compact with the States will be explored to enhance ownership and compliance.”
On his part, UN Resident Coordinator, Edward Kallon, said, “We may be tired of the coronavirus but the virus is not necessarily tired of us. Nigerians may have been largely spared the severity of the pandemic to-date, but Minister Ehanire’s advice from the onset of the pandemic still applies:‘we must prepare for the worst while hoping for the best’.
The strong national leadership and multisectoral collaboration that has so far proven effective will be needed going forward. COVID-19 is not over, and we need a transition from pandemic response to whole-of-health approach.”
Also in attendance at the retreat are Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen; PTF National Coordinator, Sani Aliyu; Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu; Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Akin Abayomi; World Health Organisation Representative in Nigeria, Walter KazadiMulombo, amongst others.