Saturday, June 13, 2009

The World Health Organization recently declared that the HINI virus infection had reached a pandemic status. All countries are therefore expected to maximize efforts at preventing incidence of infection and also controlling its occurence.

It is heart warming to know that an earlier rumor of occurence of a case in Nigeria was later dispelled by the country's health authorities. However, some important questions remain given the way Nigeria's health system is structured and functions. Most importantly, how will the health sector respond if patients begin to show up with the symptoms or cases actually occur? Will interventions targeted at prevention and control be done through the primary, secondary or tertiary health care? How and who will coordinate such efforts and are there functional coordination mechanisms in existence to effectively do this? This questions were unanswered in China prior to the Avian flu pandemic and the country is yet to recover from the devastating effects of that pandemic.

Even if these questions are unanswered, it is worth stating that thesame critical questions highlight the dishevelled nature of the health system which the current health minister has admitted needs to be fixed. Such a situation does not just affect the index pandemic but reflects a fundamental challenge to improving health care delivery and overall health outcomes in Nigeria.

In the mean time, it might only be feasible to wish and hope that the virus does not sneak into Nigeria, and that policy makers, politicians and stewards of the health sector would begin to think deeply and constructively about how to correct current anomalies in the country's health system.