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AKSG, USAID, Commission, Upgrade EOC For COVID-19 Management

The Akwa Ibom government in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has commissioned the newly instituted Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for the management of coronavirus disease (COVID-19 cases. The state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, performed the commissioning of the state-of-the-art emergency centre located at the Dakkada Secretariat Complex, Udo Udoma Avenue, Tuesday. Emmanuel at the virtual Google meet observed that the EOC will serve residents and citizens in the state by facilitating the seamless coordination and integration of state government actions to both curb and contend the spread of the virus. Represented by the secretary to the state government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, the governor maintained that the centre will enable centralized, real-time monitoring and predictive modeling for enhanced coordination of activities and informed decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies. He added that the facility will help to turn the tide of the pandemic within the states and ultimately the nation to flatten the COVID-19 curve. The state chief executive held that the setting up  of the communication call centre and Covid19 situation rooms within the EOC was carried out with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Reaching Impact, Saturation and Epidemic Control (RISE) project led by JHPIEGO and in collaboration with Data Fi working closely with the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health. Said he: "The COVID-19 pandemic which is ravaging the world today has been an eye-opener for us to review our health policies and provide matching infrastructure. He explained that the 22-room facility houses the EOC situation room, communications centre,  a conference hall, four call rooms and other amenities. He pointed out that though the state government had initiated the process of establishing an emergency operating centre (EOC) years back; COVID-19 has accelerated the process. According to him, "The vision of the state government is that the EOC will help not just for COVID-19 response, but for all other medical emergencies and security challenges as it will have coordinating facilities for the Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps and the Fire Service. He recalled with delight that on May 29, 2020 the state government commissioned an ultra-modern world-class 300-bed isolation treatment centre at the Methodist General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, Uruan. The centre which he said was completed in six weeks not only has a treatment centre, but has sophisticated PCR, bringing to four the number of isolation centres namely: the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Ikot Ekpene; Ibom Multi-Specialty Hospital and the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH). The governor acknowledged the support by the United States Government through USAID in the various health programmes including HIV/AIDS, malaria and family planning and implored them to also take advantage of the conducive atmosphere in the state to make investment. Emmanuel extended appreciation to other organizations who contributed in one way or the other towards the COVID-19 response and commended the health care team working seriously in the front line to contend the pandemic with high recovery rate. The director-general, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe  Ihekweazu, has  remarked that Akwa Ibom has an excellent spirit which informed setting the bar very high in performance for other states of the federation  to follow. "Akwa Ibom State has set standard and we don't expect anything less from other states, he submitted. Ihekweazu lauded the state government in its proactive measures to curb the global pandemic and praised the  incidence management  team for working very hard and making decisions that guarantee safety to the public. He described the Akwa Ibom Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) as one of  the best in the country and the  EOC as being the best across the states in the federation from all ramifications. The NCDC boss assured of commitment in partnering  them to ensure that the Akwa Ibom was COVID-19-free. Mrs Mary Beth Leonard, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, noted that with the commissioning of the EOCs, Nigeria can better coordinate the COVID19 outbreak response and surveillance activities as well as  other emergent disease outbreaks. Leonard said the United States Government had been in partnership with Akwa Ibom government in its various programmes such as the HIV/AIDS, malaria and family planning, etc. She assured that the agency was committed to working with the Akwa Ibom government and Federal Government of Nigeria in their response to COVID-19 pandemic, mitigating its impact, while supporting Nigeria's journey to self-reliance. Country director of JHPIEGO, Dr Oniyire Adetiloye, said the EOC has been activated in eight states so far, with four in the North and four in the South, adding that Akwa Ibom has stood out in the fight against COVID-19. The commissioner for health, Dr Dominic Ukpong, appreciated the continued support of the United States Government through JHPIEGO and other partners. He said that the establishment of the EOC - communications centre inclusive -will facilitate 24hour functionality and enable the state have a faster response time as it concerns COVID-19 and several other diseases of public health interest. In attendance at the virtual meeting were: the senior special assistant to the governor on multilateral and donor agencies, Mr Ndiana-Abasi Udom and other senior officials of the State Ministry of Health as well as some members of Akwa Ibom State COVID-19 Response and Incidence Management Team. Also present was the deputy chief of mission, United States Kathleen Fitzgibbon. Other senior officials who attended the meeting from USAID include: Dr Ezekiel James, Dolapo Ogundehin, and Dr Chris Obanubi. Officials from Implementing Partner, JHPIEGO that supported the upgrade of the facility through USAID include: Emmanuel Atuma (chief of party, RISE), Yemisi Ogundare (deputy chief of party (RISE), State Lead, Akwa Ibom RISE, Dr Kolawole Olatunbosun. The event also had Hadiza Khamofu (FHI360, Country Director), Satish Raj Pandey (chief of party (SIDHAS) and Kunle Kakanfo (state director, SIDHAS). Also present at the commissioning were the state epidemiologist, Dr Ntiense Umoette, and key members of the State COVID-19 Task Force.

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