What Is Nigeria Doing Right In The Ebola Crisis?

Sep 25, 2014

Today, the World Health Organization reported more than 2,900 people have died from Ebola in Western Africa. Amidst the growing epidemic, Nigeria has managed to escape much of the havoc.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country by far, with more than 170 million people. Yet there have been only 20 confirmed cases and eight confirmed deaths from Ebola since July.   How has the country escaped widespread infection?

"Once the first case was reported, we sort of rapidly set up the structures to ensure a comprehensive approach to resource management," said Dr. Faisal Shuaib, head of the  Emergency Operation Centre for Ebola in Lagos. He said Nigeria established, "a cohesive leadership structure that pulled on the resources of partner agencies, such as the World Health Organization, The Centers for Disease Control.  By working together, pulling the same direction we have been able to harness all the resources."

Now other countries are beginning to adopt Nigeria's approach.  Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia (which has been hit especially hard by the outbreak) have all been taking leads from the way in which Nigeria has handled the crisis, said Shuaib.

"All partners working together under one roof, implementing activities that have been agreed upon."  

And that may be the key to Nigeria's success, no efforts are being duplicated.

There are also practical considerations which would make a national quarantine, of which Sierra Leone implemented for three days last week, nearly impossible in Nigeria.  The country is just too big.  So having a designated command center becomes all the more critical.  

The last reported case of Ebola in Nigeria was on September 2nd, which means by the 8th of October the country will be deemed Ebola free.  But with the World Health Organization projecting up to 500,000 cases of Ebola in the region,  that isn't providing much relief for Dr. Shuaib.

"We know that Nigeria is a commercial center for most of these West African countries," he said.

"We know that we cannot let our guard down in terms of how we continue to screen travelers in our airports, in our seaports, and border crossings.  If the outbreak continues in these countries, it may be only a question of time before we may be able to detect or isolate in one of our airports."