The deputy regional director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dr. Richard Munang, has said that biosecurity threats cost Africa over $420billion.
Munang disclosed this in Lagos at the 8th African Conference on Health and Biosecurity, themed “Strengthening Health Security and Mitigating Biological Threats in Africa” organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Health in partnership with a non-governmental organisation, the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment (GET) Consortium.
He said that the urgency for solutions is at an all-time high and the urgency for one-health cannot be overemphasised, seeing as Africa’s biosecurity and biosafety capacity is scored at only 32 per cent.
The deputy regional director said 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.
He said that climate change, pollution and environmental degradation were aggravating infectious diseases in Africa and globally.
Munang said that the solution was One Health, an integrated approach complementing human medicine with environmental factors.
According to him, UNEP’s work on climate action and pollution 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 and restoring degraded areas to minimise the impact of habitat loss that increases the risk of pathogens transfer to humans.
In his remarks, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi said that the conference was the fourth in a series of conferences organised by the state government in partnership with GET.
Abayomi said that the conference seeks to develop a biosecurity roadmap and increase Africa’s resilience towards building the capacity to deal with pathogens of high consequence.
He said 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,” he explained.
According to him, the continents have continued to work to build the appropriate infrastructure, train and improve the capacity of appropriate personnel to manage dangerous pathogens such as Ebola, Lassa Fever, COVID, yellow fever, Marburg Fever and agents considered to be pathogens of high consequence.
Earlier, the chief operating officer of GET Consortium, Dr. Ayodotun Bobadoye, said the conference brought together policymakers, scientists, academia, non-governmental organisations and security experts both within and outside the country.
Bobadoye said that the conference seeks to discuss the continent’s effective mitigation of the impact of emerging biosecurity threats.
The COO called on governments on the continent to take biosecurity very seriously, as, given the frequency and intensity of biological threats in infectious diseases in recent years, there was no better time than the present to have the conference to discuss mitigating biological threats.