The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu has stated that polio took attention off other public health needs.
Commenting on the eradication of wild polio in Africa in an interview with Financial Times, Chikwe stated that Africa needs to shift its focus to building systems as it has all been focused on single diseases for decades.
“I am excited that we have reached this milestone. It has been more than 20 years since we set the goal. It has drawn in substantial resources, some of which have supported the response to other infectious diseases.
“While polio eradication drew in resources for public health, over the years, many of our best people, best efforts, and best resources were focused on polio. This sometimes drew away attention from other important public health needs.
“Once you declare eradication of a single disease as a goal, it’s such a high bar that I hope we don’t do it for any other disease soon. It’s time to focus on systems, not diseases.”
On the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCDC DG said some countries are focused on their interests alone instead of seeking a global end to the virus.
“This is a global pandemic which requires a global response. But it quickly emerged that the more resources you had, the more you were able to access scarce commodities like personal protection equipment, masks and ventilators. The next big thing is access to vaccines and new therapeutics.
“We see countries negotiating their own terms and companies bypassing global alliances. There is constant pressure and countries we have looked up to for many years for equity and multilateralism are falling into the trap of fighting for their own best interests.
“The idea that you can protect yourself and ignore the rest of the world doesn’t make any rational sense. We have got to find a way of working together.”