The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has commissioned its first-ever zonal reference laboratory (ZRL) in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.
A statement signed by the NCDC’s director-general, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa and made available to journalists today (February 8, 2023) said the laboratory was built in collaboration with the Ekiti State government with funding from the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Financing facility through the Nigeria COVID-19 Preparedness and Response project.
Adetifa said the move aims to strengthen the country’s diagnostic capacity through ZRL.
According to him, the agency is mandated by law to develop a network of highly specialised reference laboratories across the nation to contribute to national health security. Thus, the establishment of the laboratories aligned with the country’s obligations under the International Health Regulations (IHR)2005 and recommendations from Nigeria’s 2017 Joint External Evaluation (JEE).
“The NCDC’s implementation of its tiered laboratory network is intended to establish an effective network of testing laboratories for diseases of public health importance.
“The ZRLs will bring services closer to states, facilitate sample transportation, reduce turnaround time for testing and release of results and contribute to resilience in our emergency and preparedness efforts sub-nationally,” he explained.
He further disclosed that the newly commissioned Ekiti ZRL would strengthen diagnosis and surveillance of infectious diseases in the country, with a particular focus on the six states within the south-west region: Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Lagos, Ogun and all of southern Nigeria.
He further disclosed that the laboratory is equipped to diagnose priority diseases as part of the centre’s Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system.
“The laboratory will be the primary hub for the timely and accurate diagnosis of epidemic and epidemic-prone diseases constituting public health threats in the south-west,” he said.
In a bid to take forward lessons learnt from the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the country, the NCDC boss said it has successfully designated and commenced the establishment of zonal reference laboratories across the six geopolitical zones which were at various stages of completion.
Adetifa said the laboratories would contribute to outbreak preparedness and response, provide a wider geographic diagnostic coverage for epidemic and epidemic-prone diseases and support the implementation of quality management systems, including national and international accreditation of laboratories in NCDC’s network.
He called the ZRL project one of the efforts by the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Health through the NCDC to consolidate COVID-19 investments and further enhance the nation’s outbreak preparedness and continued response effort to respond to infectious diseases of public health importance.