By Ezra Odou, Abuja
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, today visited the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) National Reference Laboratory (NRL) in Gaduwa.
This is part of his routine visits to Departments and Agencies within the Federal Ministry of Health, to ensure their alignment to the vision of this administration to improve the health of Nigerians.
The National Reference Laboratory is the apex Public Health Reference Laboratory of the country and has the mandate to coordinate the diagnosis of diseases of public health importance.
In a statement in Abuja on Thursday, Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the laboratory has over the past three years developed the capacity for molecular diagnosis of Lassa fever, monkeypox, yellow fever, measles, rubella, meningitis, cholera and highly pathogenic infections such as Ebola.
In addition to its diagnostic capacity, the NRL, Dr Ihekweazu said, also provides genetic sequencing and other advanced services for research and surveys, pointing out in 2018 that the NRL served as the central laboratory for the National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) and is well positioned to provide similar support to other disease surveys.
During his visit, the minister went on a tour of the facility, interacting with staff who works on the diagnosis of infectious diseases in Nigeria, while he observed operations at the molecular laboratory, HIV mega-laboratory, biorepository and other critical areas of the laboratory.
During the visit, the director general shared the agency’s progress and the vision for a strong public health laboratory structure in Nigeria. He further highlighted the support of partners notably the World Health Organization, US-Government, Public Health England, Robert Koch Institute and others in strengthening the capacity for public health laboratory services in Nigeria.
In his response, the minister expressed his pride at the progress made by the NCDC National Reference Laboratory since its operationalisation in 2017.
According to the minister, “public health is a major priority for the Government of Nigeria. We are very proud that this facility exists and provides critical laboratory functions for the country. We will continue to prioritise its development as an important asset for Nigeria.”
The minister also congratulated NCDC on the integration and collaboration that has been achieved across agencies and disease programmes in the health sector, noting this commendable development especially in light of the current need for prudent and efficient resource utilisation in the country.
It would be recalled that in addition to the services provided directly by the NRL, NCDC also coordinates a network of public health laboratories across the country for the diagnosis of epidemic prone diseases.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is the government agency with the mandate to lead the prevention, detection, and control of communicable diseases. Its functions are to prevent, detect, investigate and control communicable diseases of national and international public health importance.