By Anayo Onukwugha, Port Harcourt
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has flagged off the distribution of 54 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines and related medical items to health institutions across the Niger Delta region for the fight against the Coronavirus.
Speaking during the ceremony at the NDDC Warehouse, in D-Line, Port Harcourt, the Commission’s Acting Managing Director, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, said the COVID-19 pandemic was still spreading and as such there was need for increased testing.
Pondei stated that the NDDC, as a foremost interventionist agency, had been in the forefront of efforts to address the health concerns of the people of the region in the face of the novel Coronavirus.
He said: “We are concluding our COVID-19 intervention with the distribution of PCR machines across the Niger Delta region. We hope that the benefitting institutions will put them into good use for both testing of patients for COVID-19 and also for research purposes.”
The NDDC bosd described the PCR machine as an expensive laboratory apparatus used in testing for the presence of viral antigens of SARS-COV-2, the virus that produces the Covid-19, in infected individuals, thereby providing a more accurate means of testing for active or present infection.
Pondei said: “In the wake of the COVID-19 community transmission in the Niger Delta region, the Commission went to great lengths to purchase 54 of these critically needed equipment for distribution to testing facilities in the region to strengthen provisions and preparedness to manage the pandemic.
“We sought and obtained validation of the equipment from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer stated that the efforts of the Commission were meant to complement those of the nine states in the Niger Delta and a response to the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He noted that the NDDC’s intervention came in various ways, including giving cash donations to the nine states, as well as providing palliatives that were distributed across the region. In addition, he said, funds were also given to women and youth groups as palliatives.
Pondei explained that the money released to the state governments were utilized for the procurement of medical equipment such as special diagnostic equipment, critical care equipment, including ventilators, and consumables for testing and isolation/treatment centres.
He said: “We believe that these initiatives have made significant contributions and impact towards mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the people of the region.”
Also speaking at the occasion, the NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, observed that Nigeria did well in the fight against the Coronavirus, stating that the NDDC contributed immensely to this effort.
Ojougboh said: “We thank President Buhari and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, for giving us the opportunity to contribute. The efforts paid off and kept the numbers of infected persons low compared to other countries that were not as lucky as Nigeria.
“We are testing more people now and we want to encourage further testing. That is why we are providing the PCR machines for tertiary health institutions and major hospitals in the Niger Delta region.”
Earlier, the NDDC Director of Education, Health and Social Services, Mrs. Philomena Oputa, took the executive directors round the warehouse from where the equipment were handed over to the Commission’s directors in the nine Niger Delta states.