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Harnessing WHO’s JEE for the benefit of Nigeria’s health system

Medical personnel attending to patients who contacted Cholera. Photo: Archive September 2022/Radio Nigeria

The Joint External Evaluation (JEE) developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is proving to be a valuable tool for assessing a country’s ability to respond to public health threats. Nigeria, as a nation committed to strengthening its health security, is set to conduct its second JEE evaluation, building on the progress made since its first evaluation in June 2017.

During the first JEE, Nigeria made significant strides in fortifying its public health security landscape. The Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, attributed this progress to improved disease surveillance mechanisms, enhanced laboratory infrastructure, and the nurturing of a resilient emergency preparedness culture.

As part of the preparatory process for the second JEE, the NCDC recently conducted a five-day internal assessment (July 24-28) of the nation’s health security. The aim of this assessment is to identify potential areas for improvement and further strengthen Nigeria’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats effectively.

As of May 2022, 116 countries completed the voluntary Joint External Evaluations according to the WHO. For instance, in 2017, Uganda’s evaluation highlighted gaps in surveillance, lab capacity, and emergency readiness. Consequently, Uganda devised a national action plan to address these issues and enhance health security. Similarly, during Thailand’s 2016 evaluation, it excelled in surveillance and lab capacity but lacked in risk communication and workforce development. Thailand utilized the evaluation to bolster health security and respond better to health threats. Liberia, too, undertook a JEE evaluation in 2016, identifying gaps and implementing a national action plan to improve health security.

Benefit to Nigeria

Like other countries that have undergone the JEE evaluation, Nigeria stands to benefit in several ways.

Identifying Gaps in the Health Security System: Through the JEE process, Nigeria can identify gaps in its health security system and develop targeted action plans to address them. This will enhance the country’s preparedness and response capabilities in handling various public health threats, such as diphtheria and anthrax outbreaks.

Strengthening Collaboration and Coordination: The JEE process fosters collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders, including government agencies, civil society organizations, and international partners. By improving communication and cooperation among these entities, Nigeria’s health security system can be further strengthened.

Enhancing Capacity Building: The JEE evaluation will help Nigeria pinpoint areas where capacity building is needed and develop strategies to address those needs. By investing in capacity building initiatives, the country can enhance its ability to prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies effectively.

Improving Access to Funding: The JEE process can open doors for Nigeria to access funding from international partners, supporting the implementation of recommendations and bolstering the country’s health security system.

Overall, embracing the JEE process can lead to significant improvements in Nigeria’s health security and better protect its population from potential public health threats.

Writing by Nancy Anikaezea and Annabel Nwachukwu; Editing by Saadatu Albashir