President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that the successful elimination of malaria in Nigeria was projected to save the nation about N2 trillion by year 2030.
Speaking yesterday, at the State House, Abuja, while inaugurating a 16-man Nigeria End Malaria Council (EMC) headed by the founder and President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Buhari stressed that the successful implementation of the Council’s agenda and savings from the estimated economic burden of malaria disease could save Nigeria about N687 billion in 2022 and N2 trillion by 2030.
The president emphasised that beyond improving the quality of life, health and well-being of Nigerians, the concerted strategy to tackle malaria had both public health as well as socio-economic benefits for Nigeria.
He said: ‘‘Our inauguration today will therefore ensure that malaria elimination remains a priority on our agenda, with strong political commitment from leaders at all levels.
‘‘Additionally, the End Malaria Council will provide a platform to advocate for more funding to protect and sustain progress made so far by our country, and put us on a pathway to ending malaria for good.”
Expressing concern that the age-long disease had remained a major public health challenge in Nigeria, Buhari cited the World Health Organisation (WHO) report of 2021, that showed that Nigeria alone accounted for 27 per cent of all cases of malaria and 32 per cent of deaths globally.
According to him: ‘‘Malaria infection can cause severe disease and complication in pregnant women and lead to high rates of miscarriage.
‘‘It is also responsible for a considerable proportion of deaths in infants and young children, with children under five years being the most vulnerable group affected. These are reasons we must not relent in fighting malaria.’’
On his choice of Dangote to chair the Council, Buhari explained that it was in recognition of the track record and passion of Africa’s richest man in supporting initiatives on various health issues such as polio and primary health care system strengthening.
He expressed confidence that Dangote would bring his outstanding achievements to help the country achieve its goal of malaria elimination, adding that a group of eminent personalities, who have also made their mark across all walks of life, have been selected to work in the Council.
The president added that the membership of the Council reflects government’s commitment to significantly reducing the malaria burden in Nigeria, to a level where it is no longer a public health issue.
‘‘I have been informed that the EMC has already been established in other African countries, in line with the African Union Assembly Declaration for Establishment of EMC’s in Africa.
‘‘EMCs have provided leadership, new funding and innovation to enable these countries stay on track to meet malaria burden reduction targets, and I am optimistic that the setting up of the Nigeria End Malaria Council will do the same for Nigeria.
‘‘I must add that with the additional advocacy and funding the Council will bring to the malaria control drive, we can anticipate a reduction in malaria burden that ensures that our children, pregnant women, indeed, all Nigerians are shielded from the disease.
‘‘We must work together to reduce the unnecessary deaths attributable to malaria and ultimately improve the well-being of citizens. I implore the Council to ensure best practices and innovative strategies in achieving its mandate.’’
Buhari used the forum to thank the Chairman of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya; the Executive Secretary of ALMA, RBM Partnership in Nigeria for their continuous support to the Federal Ministry of Health and the malaria programme, in particular.
He also acknowledged the contributions of the Global Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, the President’s Malaria Initiative, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, UNICEF, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, other implementing partners, and the private sector.
Earlier in their remarks, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and the Minister of State for Health, Joseph Nkama, said since 2010, Nigeria had been recording a continuous decline in malaria from 42 per cent in 2010, 27 per cent in 2015 to 23 per cent in 2018.
Quoting figures from the 2010 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey and the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, they attributed the decline to the thorough implementation of the National Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP).
Both ministers, however, admitted that funding gap had impacted the implementation of the malaria programmes in Nigeria, adding that the country needs N1.89 trillion to reduce malaria prevalence and mortality by 2025.
Nkama said: ‘‘The biggest challenge confronting us, which prevents the elimination of malaria, to ensure a malaria-free nation in the shortest possible time is inadequate finances to fund the NMSP.
‘‘We are currently implementing NMSP of 2021 to 2025, with the intent to achieve a parasitic prevalence of less than 10 per cent and reduce mortality attributable to malaria to less than 50 deaths per 1000 live births by the year 2025. It will take about N1.89 trillion to implement this plan.
‘‘However, in the first year of its implementation we had an estimated deficit of over N150 billion and in 2022, we already have a deficit of over N170 billion.’’
Also speaking, Dangote, in his acceptance speech thanked the Buhari and all members of the Council for entrusting him with the enormous responsibility, pledging to work hard to achieve the mandate.
He said: ‘‘I must confess that this resonates with my current role as the Nigerian Ambassador for Malaria, my role on the Global End Malaria Council and with the work that my Foundation is doing to mobilise the private sector to support malaria control in Nigeria and Africa at large.”
The Council members included Permanent Secretary, Office of the Vice President on Political and Economic Affairs, Shehu Ibrahim; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF); Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe; Chairman, House Committee on AIDS, TB and Malaria, Hon. Abubakar Dahiru; Ehanire; Nkama and Permanent Secretary, Federal Minister of Health, Mahmuda Mamman.
Others are Chairman, Board of Directors, United Bank for Africa Plc, Tony Elumelu; CEO, Rose of Sharon Group, Folorunso Alakija; CEO, Access Corporation, Herbert Wigwe; Femi Otedola; President, National Council of Women Societies, Hajiya Lami Lau; Emertius Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan; National Amira, Federation of Muslim Women Nigeria (FOWAN), Alhaja Rafiyat Sanni and NEMC Secretariat/National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Dr Perpetua Uhomoibhi.