The World Health Organization (WHO) has trained over 80 health workers in restive northeast Nigeria’s Borno State by establishing Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS), an official said Sunday.

EWARS is a WHO disease surveillance, alert and response initiative for early detection and containment of disease outbreaks in humanitarian emergency settings.

In a statement made available to Xinhua in Lagos, Borno State Commissioner for Health Haruna Msheila said the state welcomes WHO’s support to build capacity of its health personnel for early detection of epidemic prone diseases.

Msheila said the training will help to mount adequate public health control measures to reduce preventable morbidity and mortality.

The intervention follows WHO’s recent decision to substantively increase support toward addressing the health needs of the humanitarian emergency situation in Borno and three other states in northeast Nigeria.

Rex Mpazanje, acting WHO Country Representative, said in the statement that over 3.7 million people are in dire need of urgent health assistance in the affected states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe.

“One of the most immediate responses for WHO in this emergency is that of setting up EWARS, to detect and facilitate rapid response to suspected disease outbreaks in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps and host communities in the states,” Mpazanje said.

According to him, WHO has so far trained 33 Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs) and assistant DSNOs, 50 Surveillance Officers and Camp Coordinators from targeted health facilities in Maiduguri, Borno state and will train more health personnel in other states.

The northeastern part of Nigeria faced insecurity that left most health facilities and infrastructure damaged. Many health workers were either killed or abducted while others fled to areas of safety for over six years.

This negative fall-out has left millions of people with limited or no access to any basic primary health services, exposing them to risks of diseases and other health complications.

The aim of EWARS is to strengthen and expand the existing national Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system in an effort to reduce the number of cases and deaths due to epidemic prone diseases and other health conditions.