Health experts across Africa have said that climate change and conflicts in some parts of the continent are hampering efforts to address emerging infectious diseases, such as Ebola and Lassa fever.
This was the focus of the fifth edition of the African Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Bio-security, which was organised by the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium in Abuja.
The event had representatives of the Federal Ministries of Health, the Director- General of the National Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu; the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr Rufus Ebegba; representative of the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe, Dr Obadiah Moyo, and other stakeholders in the health sector present.
The conference also alerted African leaders and health agencies to the dangers of allowing sensitive biological materials get into the hands of insurgents, rebel groups and armed non-government actors in different parts of Africa.
The Chief Operating Officer, Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium, Dr Dotun Bobadoye, said the impact of climate change and conflict in some parts of Africa should not be overlooked because of its huge impact on human beings, animals, crops and the environment.
He said, “The annual conference is an avenue where we discuss emerging issues on health, especially bio-security and emerging infectious diseases. This year, we focused on the combined impact of climate change and serious conflict that we are having in different parts of Africa on emerging infectious diseases and bio-security.
“Climate change is becoming a big challenge to Africa, especially with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather event. We are experiencing drought in parts of the continent. In Nigeria, desertification is moving southwards with 350 hectares of land lost to desertification annually.
“Lake Chad, which used to be a source of water supply to about 30 million people,. is drying up and we have lost 90 per cent of its water content within the last three decades. This is having a serious impact on bio-security. With the loss of such huge water volume, we have rebel groups rising up and killing thousands of people.
“In the Congo Democratic Republic, we have the Ebola epidemic. This is a region that is home to a lot of rebel groups and other armed actors. Imagine the harm that would be done if a rebel group gains access to a sample of the Ebola virus and take it to Lagos or any part of Africa. It is about how to secure biological materials in such a way that it does not cause risk and harm to human beings, animal, crops and the environment.
Bobadoye said that the consortium, through the help of the Canadian Government and the Lagos State Government, had begun the construction of a biological laboratory in Lagos where sensitive biological materials would be kept from getting into the wrong hands.
He added, “We are collaborating with Lagos State to build a bio-security laboratory where highly pathogenic biological materials will be kept so that they do not get to the wrong hands. It is sighted in Lagos State and is donated by the Canadian government. It will start operation soon.”
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