Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019, there have been over 174 million confirmed cases globally, with close to 4 million deaths, amounting to nearly 10% of the deaths recorded from both World War I and World War 2 combined.
When we consider that emerging diseases such as SARS-CoV-2, Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), re-emerging diseases such as human monkeypox virus have dotted the public health landscape over the last decade, it is abundantly clear that infectious diseases will continue to pose a substantial threat globally.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, globally polarized political and by extension health systems, and the dichotomy between the global north and global south with regards to the availability of medicines, equipment, vaccines, and other supplies have made an urgent case for tackling the enormous inequities between ‘rich and poor’ worldwide.
With factors such as the increasing global population, microbial mutation, rapid and intense international travel and commerce, urban overcrowding, poor sanitation, deteriorating public health infrastructure, changes in food handling and processing, increased human exposure to disease vectors and reservoirs, and antibiotic resistance, emerging and re-emerging diseases are likely to be a recurring aspect of life for decades to come.
Therefore, national, and sub-national governments in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa need to urgently prioritise collaborations with the private sector for mobilising domestic financing for robust primary healthcare, local capacity-building, research, innovation, and technology development. Even the hitherto de-prioritization of social determinants of health such as education, water and sanitation, power and national security need to be revisited to ensure the protection of human lives in this era of emerging and re-emerging diseases. These would better ensure our countries’ preparedness in the event of another ‘likely’ pandemic.