The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has embarked on a transformative collaboration with the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other crucial donors, focusing on the swift establishment and activation of testing laboratories across the country.
This collaborative initiative has achieved a remarkable milestone, bolstering Nigeria’s laboratory capacity for testing. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria had only three operational laboratories. However, this collaboration has resulted in an impressive network of 163 operational laboratories, signifying a substantial enhancement in the country’s ability to conduct tests.
The US CDC laboratory branch chief for Nigeria, Mr. McPaul Okoye highlighted the significance of this accomplishment during a media roundtable in Abuja. He emphasised that Nigeria’s response to the pandemic has witnessed an unprecedented expansion in laboratory capacity for COVID-19 testing.
“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, only three laboratories in Nigeria had the capability to test for COVID-19 infection. Through collaboration between U.S. CDC, NCDC and other key donors, rapid establishment and activation of testing laboratories were facilitated, leading to an impressive growth in the number of laboratories with testing capacity, reaching 163,” he stated.
Okoye further highlighted that the support provided by the US CDC extended beyond mere laboratory establishment. He noted the inauguration of a National Biorepository Center (NBC) at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) as part of this collaborative effort.
“The NBC at the NRL, established with support from the US CDC, offers standardised storage facilities for biological samples and specimens used in research, quality assurance, system validation and product development. It also serves as a platform for training personnel in proper sample management,” he explained.
Presently, the NBC has received accreditation from the National Health Research Ethical Committee and houses over one million samples from various national surveys.
The director of public health laboratory service at NCDC, Mrs. Olajumoke Babatunde highlighted the critical role the centre plays in advancing the agency’s mandate of safeguarding Nigerians against various diseases.
“This initiative aligns with Nigeria’s commitments under the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 and recommendations from Nigeria’s 2023 Joint External Evaluation (JEE). Our tiered laboratory network aims to establish a robust network of testing laboratories for diseases of public health significance,” Babatunde remarked.
The programme director of the division of global health protection at US CDC, Dr. Farah Husain underscored the significance of CDC Nigeria’s role in enhancing public health in the country.
Husain stressed, “The CDC Nigeria office partners with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, its departments, agencies, state ministries of health and key partners to develop, implement, and evaluate disease response efforts and programmes that contribute to strengthening public health infrastructure in Nigeria”.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of ensuring that public health systems are adequately equipped to detect, prevent, respond to and recover from health emergencies.
The collaborative work between US CDC and Nigeria, as showcased in the media roundtable, illustrates the significant impact of strengthened laboratory systems on public health services in the country.
The partnership between the United States and Nigeria, dating back to 2004, has consistently focused on enhancing laboratory networks, systems and services. These collaborative efforts have yielded substantial outcomes, evident in the continuous growth and improved quality of Nigeria’s laboratory capacity.