President Buhari’s visit to the U.S., the Centre for Disease Control has shown willingness to partner with Nigeria to improve the NCDC.

Awute said the NCDC and the National Blood Transfusion Service now collaborate as a fall-out of Buhari’s U.S. visit.

He said the Architect i1000 equipment, which is a fully automated screening machine with a shorter turnaround time of four hours, would be made available to the country.

The permanent secretary said: “Under this collaboration which is facilitated by the U.S. government through the CDC Nigeria country office and one of its implementing partners –  partnership for supply for Supply Chain Management,  Abbott will  install and maintain 1 No Architect i1000 machine at each of the three NBTS Zonal Centre’s located in Abuja, Ibadan and Jos. When the new systems are commissioned, the pilot centre’s will screen blood units pooled from other contiguous NBTS Centres as well as from nearby secondary and tertiary hospitals that partner with NBTS, consequently ensuring the availability of larger quantities of safe blood in a timely fashion.

“This is an example of Nigeria’s continuing relationship relationship with the US government on health matters with special focus on International Health Security. The ongoing insurgency often results in mass casualties. Such medical emergencies, give rise to the urgent need for supplies of safe blood in adequate quantities. The collaboration and support to the National Blood  Transfusion Service in the deployment of the Architect i1000 machines for blood testing; will strengthen the National Blood Service to achieve her key mandate. Safe blood, saves lives.”

Nasidi said the President’s visit to America has opened up opportunities for the country to access high possibilities of funding, research collaborations and networking with American institutions. He said: “Obama said we are free to explore that. In his response to Mr. President, Obama spent five to 10 minutes, talking about our achievements on Ebola. So, all we think we are going to do now is to consolidate on that gain – the great job that was done in Lagos, Port Harcourt. And one of the achievements is that as a follow-up to that, already the Director of the U.S. CDC has visited Nigeria to see which areas we can collaborate on and enhance support to us. He saw our facilities and I think he made a very wonderful speech that he is very impressed. We are now trying to key in on that, collaborate with U.S. FEMA, U.S. CDC and NIH and other necessary U.S. institutions to establish a very effective National Emergency Operations Centre which we are in the process of doing. Virtually, half of our new administrative building is Emergency Operations Centre and we just got back Nigerian professors who went to train in the U.S. for the operation of that centre. He was trained in the U.S. CDC as a follow-up – Obama promised to help Nigeria to strengthen these areas and as a result, somebody has already been trained at the highest level of health security training.”

Dr. Osinubi believes that the gains of the President’s visit to the U.S. will show more when the ministry has a political head.

“You know those kinds of changes are best felt when you have a minister in place.  Like when I was telling you about the place of the minister, I told you that the political head will work in line with his principals’ policies. So, once the President has indicated his policy direction in the area of health, then the minister has to run with that vision. Like we have a few companies coming into Nigeria who have come to say they want to work with the National Blood Transfusion Service in the area of blood safety. That is a fallout of the President’s visit to the U.S. The Abbot Group, one of the largest laboratory groups in the U.S. has also come and they say they want to work with the health ministry as to how to provide equipment in some of our laboratories. So, there have been things like that. But, for us, in the Hospital Services Department, when you have a sitting minister and they come like that and explained their mission, it will be his role to guide them in the direction of what the government wants to do and once that decision has been taken, the ministry has to run with it.”

The absence of a minister has also made the ministry unable to put in place the National Tobacco Control Committee.

Usoro explains: “In the absence of a minister, the permanent secretary takes over. This interregnum is a bit long but I think we have been coping very well in the absence of a minister. For instance, we have started the process of operationalising the National Tobacco Control Act. It was  signed by the former President on May 26. But, the Act says the Chairman of the National Tobacco Control Committee will be appointed by the Minister of Health. So, that was why we advised the permanent secretary to just take it easy. Apart from issues like that and other regulations that clearly say the Minister of Health, all other services have been running normally as if he was present.”

With time, Awute said things will change because Buhari has shown the political will to turn the sector’s fortunes around. The people are really waiting for it. And the waiting should not be too long.

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