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Biosecurity threats cost Africa over $420bn, says UNEP

Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dr Richard Munang, has said that biosecurity threats cost Africa over $420 billion.

Richard Munang
Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dr Richard Munang, speaking at the GET conference

Munang disclosed this on Tuesday, November 2, 2022, in Lagos at the 8th African Conference on Health and Biosecurity, with the theme: “Strengthening Health Security and Mitigating Biological Threats in Africa”.

The Lagos State Government, through its Ministry of Health, is partnering with a non-governmental organisation, the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment (GET) Consortium, to organise the conference.

Dr Munang said that the urgency for solutions is at an all-time high and the urgency for one-health cannot be overemphasised.

He also disclosed that Africa’s biosecurity and biosafety capacity is scored at only 32 per cent.

The Deputy Regional Director said that the One Health approach, which integrates human, environmental, animal, planet and health, is critical to averting, managing and treating biosafety risks on the continent.

He said that climate change, pollution, and environmental degradation are aggravating infectious diseases in Africa and globally.

He said that the solution was One Health, an integrated approach complementing human medicine.

According to him, “our UNEP work on climate action nature action and pollution action offers a strategic pathway for One Health.”

He said the contribution of the environment as a solution to biosecurity threats cuts across controlling temperatures which catalyse the growth of pathogens, restoring degraded areas to minimise the impact of habitat loss that increases the risk of pathogens transfer to humans.

Prof. Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, said that the conference is the fourth in a series of conferences organised by the Lagos State Government in partnership with GET.

Abayomi said that the conference seeks to develop a biosecurity roadmap and increase the African continent’s resilience towards building the capacity to deal with pathogens of high consequence.

He said that the conference would ensure that the continent strengthens its health security to mitigate biological threats and consolidate the gains made in tackling different emerging infectious diseases.

“A city like Lagos is vulnerable to biological threats making it important for us to improve its preparedness against biological threats and build appropriate infrastructure to manage and mitigate dangerous pathogens of high consequence,” he explained.

According to him, the continents have continued to work to build the appropriate infrastructure, train and improve the capacity of appropriate personnel to be able to manage dangerous pathogens such as Ebola, Lassa Fever, COVID, Yellow Fever, Marburg Fever and any agent that is considered to be a pathogen of high consequence.

Dr Ayodotun Bobadoye, Chief Operating Officer of GET Consortium, said the conference brought together policy makers, scientists, academia, non-governmental organisations, and security experts both within and outside the country.

Bobadoye said that the conference discussed how the continent can effectively mitigate the impact of emerging biosecurity threats.

He called on governments to take the issue of biosecurity very seriously.

He said that, with the increase in frequency and intensity of biological threats in infectious diseases in recent years, there is no better time to have the conference to discuss mitigating biological threats than now.

No fewer than 400 global health, security and environmental experts, including policy makers and researchers in various fields from Africa and continents around the world, attended the conference.

The conference has been organised in different cities in Africa in the last eight years: in Accra, Ghana; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Dakar, Senegal; and in Abuja, Nigeria.

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