By Samson Ezea
In November this year, there were strange deaths of people in Ette Uno and Umuopu communities in Igbo-Eze North LGA of Enugu State. The situation created panic, confusion and pandemonium in the affected communities and the entire state. The indigenes and residents of the communities were scared and upbeat.
While many claimed ignorance of the causes of the strange deaths, others attributed it to superstitions, some were of the view that it was the sudden surge in COVID-19 virus spread.
But in his usual prompt and swift response, just like he did during the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in the state, Governor Ugwuanyi dispatched Enugu State Ministry of Health Rapid Response Team and LGA Rapid Response Team to visit the affected communities in alongside the national and international health partners to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the sudden strange deaths in the communities.
Their findings revealed that the cause of the strange deaths was yellow fever. Further investigations as of the second week of November revealed that 222 suspected cases of Yellow Fever with 76 confirmed deaths have occurred in three states of Bauchi, Delta and Enugu.
Relying on heavily to ensure appropriate and adequate response to the outbreak by Enugu State Government is the Enugu State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (ESPHCDA), whose it is her constitutional responsibility to handle health scourge like the battle against the spread of the dreaded Yellow Fever disease.
The Agency, led by its Executive Secretary and renowned medical doctor, Dr. George Ugwu, moved into action immediately in collaboration with its national and international health partners and massive support from the Enugu State Government liased with the leadership of the six local government areas in Enugu North Senatorial zone, where the disease has claimed lives to organise training for local government
immunization teams and the Agency team members for reactive mass vaccination across the council areas to prevent further spread of the disease.
The Agency also mobilised resources and liased with Partners for financial, technical and human supports, which include mobilisation of stakeholders, prompt request and taking delivery of doses of Yellow Fever Vaccine from the National Cold Chain Store, engaging in high level Advocacy visits and sensitisation meetings with government for enabling environment and key stakeholders for specific roles and mobilisation of all and sundry for acceptance of vaccination, training
of Town criers and House- to-House mobilizers to create awareness.
Others include production and distribution of new letters to community governance, churches, schools, media and markets for information and public enlightenment, radio spot announcements for public awareness, selection of teams for fixed and temporary fixed posts to ensure wider coverage, daily delivery of adequate vaccines to the LGAs and maintenance of cold chain equipment, monitoring and supervision of Outbreak response activities by State Supervisors, State Technical Facilitators and Partners, conduct of daily evening review meetings at LGAs and Primary Healthcare Agency office to appraise daily activities, daily
call in data by the M&E unit was regularly implemented through data generation and transmission, engagement of Media through Press briefing for media monitoring, reporting and wider audience reach out and enlightenment, mid-review/ debriefing of ES/CEO ENS-PHCDA and State Immunisation team by the implementing LGA teams, release of health workers stipends and logistic funds to boost their morale and attitude to work, weekly staff management meeting of the Executive Secretary ENS-PHCDA with Directors and programme officers for stock taking, appraisal and restrategizing, liaising and collaborating with other government agencies such as Fire Service and SEMA for general fumigation and other non-medical emergencies and requesting for State wide Yellow Fever Vaccination campaign from NPHCDA amongst other assistance and support.
It is these prompt response of the Enugu State Government, concerted efforts and commitment of the ESPHCDA, State Ministry of Health, national and international health partners, local government administration and stakeholders that has helped immensely to reduce drastically or eliminate completely the Yellow Fever-induced deaths in the state, especially in Enugu North Senatorial zone since the outbreak of the dreaded disease.
Speaking on the progress made so far, the Executive Secretary, ESPHCDA, Dr. George Ugwu said that despite the robust response in the affected LGAs , the Agency is still at alert.
“We are currently perfecting plans for expanding the mass reactive vaccination to additional five LGAs and finally the entire state.
This is to ensure the full protection of our entire citizens against yellow fever and other infectious diseases in accordance with the priority of our healthcare loving Governor.
“We are hoping that the NPHCDA and our international partners will continue to support us with the needed vaccines to continue all this even at a faster rate.”
…Ezea wrote from Independence Layout, Enugu