Towards malaria eradication

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From left: Aig-Imoukhuede, Dangote, Adewole, Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou, and Executive Director, Dangote Foundation, Halima Dangote, at the the event.

To boost the fight against malaria, the government has unveiled the guideline for the engagement of the private sector. OYEYEMI GBENGA-MUSTAPHA was at the launch.

With the unveiling of a document entitled: “Engaging the private sector to eliminate malaria in Nigeria,” the fight against malaria has received a huge boost. The document is a support plan of the Federal Government on partnering with the private sector  to end the malaria scourge by the year 2020.

It was launched at the Four Point by Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos. The launch attracted captains of industry, high ranking government officials, healthcare givers and other stakeholders.

At the event, the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, said there was an increasing demand by development partners for domestic funding for malaria. To achieve this, the public-private partnership is crucial and needs to be properly coordinated, he added. According to him, a multi-pronged approach is required to eradicate malaria from Nigeria.

Adewole said:”I am confident that we can collectively work to achieve the objectives of this document, thereby preventing our people from dying from malaria blight.

He said despite the large volume of mosquito nets distributed, the prevalence of malaria was still high in the country, urging the private sector to consider seriously the local production of mosquito nets.

He said: “We cannot afford to be importing nets, they  can be produced in Nigeria and the market is huge. We need about 30 million nets every year in Nigeria. A net has a life span of about three years and if you compute on the basis of one net for two people, Nigerians would need 90 million nets over three years.  Every year, we need to replace 30 million nets, so there is a huge market apart from opportunities for export.”

The launch of the document was spearheaded by the Dangote Foundation.

The collaboration with the OPS, Adewole said, became imperative given the fact that 30 million nets used annually as well as over 80 per cent of the anti-malaria medicine are  imported.The need arises therefore  for local production of these materials.

He said: “We have engaged in series of advocacy which has yielded results, but advocacy is not enough, many people would have been bitten before coming under the insecticide treated nets .We need research and we realised we can’t do it alone, which is why we are engaging the private sector.We need their discipline and efficiency and in the local production of the medicine because that can generate employment in the country.”

He said over the last decade, substantial progress had been made in the control of malaria through significant investment by the government and development partners. Also, supply and distribution of anti-malaria commodities has increased nationwide.

According to Adewole, over 100 million long-lasting insecticide treated nets were distributed in the past seven years to protect over 28 million of the 33 million households in the country.

Stakeholders in the task of eliminating Malaria by 2020 code named ‘Malaria to Zero’  have made case for the Organised Private Sector to join the movement and save lives of Nigerians and spare the nation of an estimated annual loss of $2.4 billion.

Taking the centre stage at the event, the National Malaria Ambassador,   Aliko Dangote, said with 25 percent of the world’s disease burden for malaria, Nigeria had experienced and continued to experience significant financial and human costs .

Dangote said over N350 billion was lost annually due to workplace and school absenteeism as well as high treatment costs.

“This is hardly surprising as 97 percent of Nigerians are at risk of malaria infection, with 60 percent outpatient visits and 30 percent of hospitalisations due to the disease. It is estimated that approximately one to five percent of Nigeria’s GDP is lost on account of malaria. This is a sharp deterioration to tax revenue and business development. If we can invest in the prevention of malaria then that will be a good business investment. More people will report to work, work efficiently, be more productive and huge revenue saved to the company’s coffer and tax system,” said Dangote.

He lamented the effect of the disease on the nation and economy, saying “in addition to direct costs to business and the economy, it indirectly damages the economy through the deterioration of human capital, the loss in saving, investments and tax revenues. This is clearly too high of a cost to society and to the economy.”

Dangote stated that Nigeria’s transition from malaria control to elimination provided a compelling opportunity for the country to reflect on its aspirations, take stock on progress and inspire bold, innovative approaches and complementary public-private partnerships to disrupt poor malaria outcomes.He added that the private sector could play an important role in mobilising domestic resources, capabilities, innovation and advocacy platforms to catalyse progress in achieving Nigeria’s malaria pre-elimination agenda.

To lead the private sector in this collaborative effort, Dangote said he was committed to using his conglomerate, the Dangote Group of Companies, as an example of what companies in Nigeria should be doing.

He said henceforth, there would be “malaria education for my staff at all of our business locations, distribution of prevention tools and supplies to our workers in the factories and in the fields.”

Dangote said he co-founded the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), which is focused on mobilising the private sector, across one coordinated platform, to leverage private sector capabilities, advocacy, innovation and resources to complement government efforts in advancing health outcomes.

Dangote urged more private sector leaders and companies to join the Malaria to Zero campaign, to pool resources, have impact at a scale greater than underlying corporate initiatives against malaria.

He promised to continue  drawing attention to the fight against malaria, disclosing that he had accepted an invitation from Bill Gates and Ray Chambers to join them on the End Malaria Council.

Some prominent people he brought on board, according to him, included Mr. Bill Gates, Mr. Jim Ovia (co-chair), Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede (founder, Access bank), Mr. Herbert Wigwe (CEO, Access bank), Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate (co-chair), Mrs. Sola David Borha, and others.

The strategic document was unveiled by all stakeholders, including captains of industries, representatives of health organisation agencies, Nigerian Medical Association as well as NGOs in health-related affairs.

Those present at the unveiling were unanimous on the fact that while the National Malaria Strategic Plan (2014-2020) is a good one, the gains of the past years must be sustained, care must be taken to ensure transition from malaria control to elimination in the country, which could only be achieved with adequate collaboration between government and private sector.