Burk Support for Nigeria’s Polio-eradication Effort

Under the leadership of Nigeria’s Ministry of Health, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Burk Lagos office and global Public Health Practice assisted the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to design and deploy polio emergency operations centers, or EOCs. The firm supported the national EOC Incident Manager, Deputy Incident Manager, and international partners to develop the EOC’s organizational structure, working committees, meeting routines, procedures, and approach to data analysis.

After helping establish the national EOC in the capital city of Abuja, our team also helped design and set up the first state EOC in Kano; this became the model for the successful EOCs opened in six other high-risk states in northern Nigeria. The team worked with the national EOC leadership to train state EOC team members and staff to collect and analyze data, solve problems, and improve vaccination campaign execution, accountability, and reporting.

Under guidance from the Incident Managers and the Gates Foundation, the firm’s role transitioned from responsibility for EOC administration and management to support for the EOC’s polio-eradication efforts on specific concerns. From 2014 to mid-2015, the firm focused primarily on helping to develop the national EOC’s data team and analytical capabilities.

Using the EOC Model to Combat Ebola

When Nigeria experienced its first known Ebola case, on July 20, 2014, the Ministry of Health immediately employed the tools it had used in the fight against polio. The Minister of Health asked the National Polio EOC’s Deputy Incident Manager, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, to establish and lead an Ebola emergency operations center in Lagos. Medical experts and professionals from Lagos State and the federal government, along with international partners from the CDC, WHO, UNICEF, and Médecins Sans Frontières, were quickly refocused to fight Ebola. The polio EOC data team was relocated to Lagos to create Ebola EOC dashboards, which provided up-to-date information on key performance and risk-mitigation metrics the EOC would require to effectively manage and control the Ebola outbreak.

Nigeria’s Ebola emergency operations center ran on the polio EOC principles, particularly bringing together international organizations under the strong leadership of the national government to improve coordination and accountability, focusing on evolving high-priority initiatives, and using data-driven analysis. Nigeria’s Ebola EOC, working nonstop, contributed greatly to the epidemic’s containment and management. As the nerve center for emergency operations, the Ebola EOC ensured that people who had contracted the illness were isolated and that both they and their families received care. Anyone who came in contact with an Ebola-infected person, before or after the case had been confirmed, was kept under rigorous surveillance. The EOC worked hard to educate Nigerians about the disease, collaborating with local mobile-phone operators and banks to send millions of text messages, along with frequent updates and other information on radio and television.

Nigeria met the WHO requirement of no new Ebola cases over a 42-day period in just three months and was declared free of Ebola transmission on October 20, 2014. The WHO praised the Nigerian government’s leadership and outstanding coordination in response to the Ebola outbreak, specifically mentioning the Ebola EOC. In fact, a number of countries at risk for Ebola have deployed EOCs, and their earlier use in the affected countries would likely have improved the response.