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Address By the Minister of Health On the Declaration of Nigeria As Ebola Virus Free
Date Posted: 21/Oct/2014
 
ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF HEALTH, PROFESSOR C.O. ONYEBUCHI CHUKWU ON THE OCCASION OF THE DECLARATION OF NIGERIA AS EBOLA VIRUS FREE BY THE WHO HELD AT ABUJA ON MONDAY, 20TH OCTOBER, 2014
 
The declaration of the end of the recent outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Nigeria represents a major milestone of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.
 
I congratulate Mr. President and the Governors of Lagos, Enugu and Rivers States. I also congratulate the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies –the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Port Health Service, the State Ministries of Health of Lagos, Enugu and Rivers, the WHO, UNICEF, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, MSF and other partners who were part of the team under the leadership of the Minister of Health.
 
I am indeed gladdened that by divine providence, this declaration coincides with my leaving office as Minister of Health. As the outgoing Minister of Health, this declaration symbolically presents a dignifying seal of the achievements of the Federal Ministry of Health during my tenure as Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
 
Several people have asked me what I thought was the most critical success factor in the Nigeria’s containment effort against the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. Undoubtedly, the most critical success factor was leadership- strong, effective, focused and committed leadership provided by President Goodluck Jonathan himself and replicated at various levels down the ladder. I am convinced that without this quality of leadership, it would have been extremely difficult for the EVD outbreak not only to be tamed but to be driven out of Nigeria.
 
Next to leadership is a factor closely linked to leadership: effective coordination of the various collaborating partners. Under a single leadership, all the contributing partners were moulded into a single, almost homogenous, team. This is one factor that may be lacking in the control efforts of other countries. The Private Sector and the Media also played key role which greatly facilitated the containment of the disease.
 
Nigeria has won the battle against Ebola Virus but this world war rages on on other fronts in other countries. The war certainly is not over. A reinforced Ebola Virus could still invade Nigeria. Given this risk of possibility of re-infection, there is need to maintain the state of high alertness at all our ports of entry. We cannot afford to lower our guard. This risk and the risk to other countries can only be eliminated through the setting up of a system similar to the Nigerian one under the leadership of the United Nations but with the operational wing built around ECOWAS.
 
The Disease needs to be eliminated from every country of the world. It is only then that each country can breathe a sigh of relief. As long as there is a case of EVD in any part of the world, every country of the world, every human being in this planet remains at risk.
 
Unlike an ordinary unwanted guest, the Ebola Virus is an unwanted guest whom the unwilling host cannot send away from his premises, but at best must accommodate in his boys quarter, feed the virus until either the virus dies or the host dies. This metaphor explains the much that can be expected from a country’s health system as far as EVD is concerned.
 
Nigeria like other countries will not have the control over the presentation of the disease at any of its ports of entry. However, it is the responsibility of the country’s surveillance system to ensure that any case presenting at any of our ports of entry is rapidly identified and isolated. That is the only way the country will remain safe from the Ebola Virus Disease pending its global elimination.
 
I would therefore, urge the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies to remain watchful, while I urge Nigerians and other residents of Nigeria to sustain and even improve upon the new level of sanitation and personal hygiene practices.
 
Thank you for your attention.

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