A Valentine letter to the NCDC - By: Nasir Yammama | Dailytrust

A Valentine letter to the NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

My beloved Nigeria Centre for Disease Control,

Let me start by making it clear that beyond everything, I am most enamoured by your sense of purpose and duty. But I must admit, it was the science that brought about the instant infatuation between us. Your application of it not only to understand but also prevent and respond to diseases as our national public health institute amazes me. Your dogged dedication to evidence based, scientific standards in a sector easily prone to compromises, and in a country notorious for cutting corners is exemplary. Your adamance to protect Nigerian lives guided by research and the expertise of your brilliant workforce is a beautiful anomaly in a world so eroded by terrible public institutions. So even as I scribble this note to you, I want you to know that I appreciate the scientific heavy-lifting behind all that you do.

Now to return to your enamouring of me by your selfless, often unrewarding and yet persevering servitude to this country. A lot of people may have only seen a semblance of your invaluable role in protecting the lives of citizens only as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged us. But not me. I know the battles you fight daily with Cholera, with Meningitis, Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) and Yellow Fever. I also remember your valiant and victorious battle against Ebola and I know your ongoing struggle with Lassa Fever. I know your decade long history of selfless sacrifice to control diseases, not to talk of your crucial efforts today against COVID-19.

Because of my unbridled love for you, I share your challenges, dear NCDC. But since this is a day of celebration, I will not talk about your troubles. I am happy that the act for your establishment was signed into law. I am happy that your prominence is evident due to the crucial public health role you play. But I hope that you will be better funded, better equipped and granted even more policy leeway to do your job better. So in the spirit of valentine’s day, consider this a prayer to all your hopes and aspiration and against all impediments to your mission of protecting the health of Nigerians through evidence based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities.

My dearest NCDC, of all your directorates I am most intrigued by Surveillance and Epidemiology. Perhaps because of my interest and work in Data and Development Policy but also because of the department’s efficient work with data to detect outbreaks and inform policy. I am an ardent follower of the National Weekly Epidemiological Report made possible by the tireless and analytical team of this department. Kudos to all the great people that make this department tick, and congratulations on your judicious use of digital technologies which I genuinely feel is at par with peers anywhere in the world.

Also, the work of the Public Health Laboratory Services department in diagnostic services alone is phenomenal. Coupled with managing the national and regional reference laboratories, this department also coordinates and manages Nigeria’s National Public Health Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). I think people in this department are the rock-stars of the NCDC especially crucial as testing and diagnostic services are at the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic globally.

To mitigate and manage the impacts of a health disaster is no small feat but the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response department is no small department in that regard. I cannot express how much awe I have for the people in this team for all their efforts as rapid response teams for various outbreaks and their crucial roles in the Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) especially in this COVID-19 pandemic.

However, no other team epitomizes resilience and tact of the NCDC spirit for me as much as Prevention Programmes and Knowledge Management department which develops health promotion and disease prevention plans which address priority endemic infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases. I have seen the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team work with other health institutions, businesses and even government agencies in delivering trainings and conducting campaigns across Nigeria right in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and security challenges and it is nothing short of miraculous. The importance of this directorate is no clearer than in the maxim that prevention is better than cure. I have enormous respect for these people and their dedication to you, beloved NCDC.

This letter will certainly fall short of expressing my affection for the NCDC if it failed to note the tremendous effort of the Administration and Human Resources as well as the Finance and Accounts directorates of the organisation. I like to look at the people in these departments as the bedrock of the NCDC.  Whenever I see the NCDC vehicle, personnel or event, I know that it is only possible for them to operate because of these men and women who make sure the engine runs.

Even though you deserve all of it, I must not tarry too long in your praise my dear NCDC, for I know that you have vital work to attend to. I wish to lastly say towards your Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, some words of gratitude for such great leadership. I view him as a personification of the excellence of Nigerian professionalism that is the envy of the world. I am confident with his leadership I do feel well informed, included and adequately protected. I hope that none of the complacency that occasionally sets in with Nigerian trailblazers ever comes to him as you continue the fight with all disease.

My NCDC, for your endless sacrifice to protect the health of all Nigerians, I offer you all of my love this Valentine’s Day.

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