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Airport Health Services Intensify Controls At Entry Points

Anthony Awunor

To control the spread of communicable diseases, particularly at the Point Of Entries at the nation’s borders, Airport Health & Medical Services Lagos Federal Ministry of Health has said it plans to collaborate with other aviation stakeholders. According to the airport health services, their moves are to promote the objectives of: ICAO/CAPSCA Project, ICAO health-related SARPs and WHO IHR (2005).

It however added that its main goal is to improve plans and preparedness to reduce the risk and impact of public health emergencies on travel and trade. A medical expert attached to the Port Health Services Lagos Federal Ministry Of Health Nigeria, Dr. Alex-Okoh disclosed the plans recently while speaking on the preparedness of airport health services during the 2-day ICAO CAPSCA Africa Project team visit to Nigeria.

The visit was to assist Nigeria in developing competencies, structures and procedures in preventing the spread of communicable diseases through Air Travel. According to Dr. Okoh, Port Health Services is out to implement the main goals of the IHR at POEs, protect the health of travelers and population and avoid /reduce spread of disease and keep airports, ports and ground crossings terminals running   and aircrafts, ships and ground vehicles operating in a sanitary condition and free of sources of infection and contamination, as far as practicable.

He equally added that Health & Medical Services are responsible for monitoring – baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods, – Postal parcels and human remains departing and arriving from affected areas, adding that they are to ensure Maintenance in such a condition that they are free of sources of infection or contamination, including vectors and reservoirs; Other responsibilities of the Port Health Services includes: supervision of service providers for services concerning travelers, – baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods, postal parcels and – human remains (HR) He said “currently a waiver must be obtained to repatriate (HR) including the conduct of inspections and medical examinations as necessary e.g. – Environmental inspections– Food Handlers’ examination.

Dr Okoh who said Aiport Health Services have achieved effective coordination of EVD response activities at POEs added that some of the challenges they have are that conducive clinic accommodation not yet available, Skill gaps, raining/retraining and the need to sustain preparedness efforts Other challenges according to him include globalization & all the other factors that drive epidemics and pandemics, climate change and urbanization.

The ICAO CAPSCA Africa Project team visited Nigeria in 2009 and 2011 to assist Nigeria in developing competencies, structures and procedures in preventing the spread of communicable diseases through Air Travel. In its global effort to improve states’ preparedness, planning and responses to public health events, the international aviation body visited the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA) recently on an Assistance visit. ICAO through its Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) has been visiting different regions in the world.

This is to assess the preparedness of their aviation sectors and offer training sessions including several assistance visits to states and airports in Africa, taking into account the priorities established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as contained in the International Health Regulations (2005). In addition, the visit is expected to promote and facilitate communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration between the public health sectors in the handling of public health events.

To this end, a CAPSCA assistance visit was conducted in Nigeria at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) from 22nd – 23rd June, 2015. The team evaluated the level of emergency medical preparedness by the various agencies operating at the Airport. The Union recalls that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa had generated great concern and focused attention on the aviation sector due to some reported cases linked to air travel.

The agencies involved in the ICAO assistance visit are the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA), Federal Ministry of Health/Port Health Authority, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, (NAMA) and Airline operators (foreign and domestic). Others are Ground Handling Agencies, Security Agencies – Nigeria Air Force, Nigeria Police Force, Directorate of State Security Services.

Nigerian Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs and Excise etc. The tourism agencies – Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and others. At the Airport, the following areas will be visited – Air Traffic Control Area Control Centre (ACC),Air Traffic Control Tower, Designated Aircraft Parking position, Airport and Emergency Operations Centre

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