ICAO’s visit and emergency medical vigilance at airports
WITH the just concluded visit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their global effort to improve states’ preparedness, planning and responses to public health events at airports, several lessons have been learnt on how to increase vigilance on medical emergencies over communicable diseases transiting through the nation’s airports.
The assistance visit took the team to inspect two prominent airports in the country, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA), and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
ICAO through its Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and management of public health events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) is visiting different regions in the world.
The visit is affording them the opportunity to assess the preparedness of the aviation sector and to 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 (IHR) 2005.
In addition, the visit was used to promote and facilitate communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration between the public health sector in the handling of public health events.
To this end, a CAPSCA assistance was conducted in Nigeria at MMIA and NAIA on 22nd and 23rd June, 2015.
During the visit, the team evaluated the level of emergency medical preparedness by the various agencies operating at the Airports.
It is no longer news that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa generated great concern and focused attention on the aviation sector due to some reported cases linked to air travel.
On this account, Nigeria got a commendation from the team for the effective way the country contained the scourge and thereafter completely eradicated it.
The agencies which played active role in the assistance visit were: 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 included: Ground handling agencies, security agencies like the Nigeria Air Force, Nigeria Police, Directorate of State Security Services. Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs and Excise.
The tourism agencies like the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and other private tourism companies were also active.
At the Airport the team visited the Air Traffic Area Control Centre (ACC), Air Traffic Control Tower, Designated Aircraft Parking position, Airport and Emergency Operations Centre.
Others were passenger screening location and facilities, suspect Case and Contacts Interview and Assessment location and facilities, affected ill passenger isolation and treatment location and facilities, Port Health and Medical Facilities and other facilities involved in public health emergency which include a scenario of an aircraft arriving with a suspect on board or a local outbreak.
At the end of the two–day visit, the CAPSCA team, the State Public Health, Civil Aviation Authority including all Assistance Visit participants met for a debriefing and discussion on the preliminary visit results.
The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Capt. Muhtar Usman in his speech at the occasion solicited maximum cooperation of all stakeholders to enable the ICAO CAPSCA Assistance visit team to succeed in its exercise.
He gave a brief history of the visit and the extent of involvement of NCAA and other relevant agencies in maintaining the ICAO tradition of raising the bar in their response time of handling medical emergencies at the airports.
His words: “The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in partnership with stakeholders in the Nigerian Aviation sector (FAAN, NAMA, Port Health Services, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Customs and Excise, Security Agencies, Air Carriers (Domestic and International), Ground handling Companies (NAHCO and SAHCOL etc) and the Federal Ministry of Health have recently produced a National Aviation Public Health Emergency Preparedness Plan.
“This document which was drawn mainly from the template provided by ICAO will serve as a guidance material to all aviation stakeholders in the handling of suspected cases of communicable diseases within the Nigerian airspace.
“I want to use this opportunity to appreciate stakeholders in the Nigerian Aviation Sector for their professionalism and commitment in the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in the country in 2014.
Some of you risked your lives and that of your families for the general good of the country.
“This inter-agency Collaboration, Cooperation, Coordination and Communication displayed during the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak must be sustained to enable us effectively handle any suspected case of communicable disease in our Airports”.
Members of the team included: Michiel Vreedenburgh (Team Lead), Chief Implementation, Planning and Support Section (safety), Air Navigation Bureau, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Headquarters, Montreal, Canada; Nika Meheza Manzi, Regional Officer, Aerodromes and Ground Aids & CAPSCA WACAF Regional Coordinator; Dr. Harry Opata, Disease Surveillance Response, WHO/AFRO Inter country support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, World Health Organization (WHO); Andrew J. Demma, Lead, International Border Team, Quarantine and Border Health Services Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States of America; Dr. Lesogo Bogatsu, Technical Advisors Team Leader, CAPSCA Africa and Engr. Adel Ramlawi, Regional Officer, Aerodromes, & Ground Aids International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Middle East Office, Cairo, Egypt.
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