The struggle to end malaria in Nigeria has entered a new phase with Nigerian Champion of the struggle, Aliko Dangote named the pioneer chair of the National End Malaria Council (NMEC), a body established by President Muhammadu Buhari to eliminate the scourge of malaria in the country.
The NMEC was inaugurated by the President at a well-attended event in Abuja recently. Dangote, who accepted the responsibility of chairing the Council, said the new function was in tandem with his current roles as the Nigerian Ambassador for Malaria, his role on the Global End Malaria Council, and with the work that his foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation is doing to mobilise the private sector to support malaria control in Nigeria in particular, and Africa at large.
While inaugurating the 16-member council, President Buhari projected that the successful implementation of the council’s agenda and savings from the estimated economic burden of the disease would save Nigeria about N687 billion in 2022 and N2 trillion by 2030.
The president told the council 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.
“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,” Buhari said.
Expressing concern that the age-long disease had remained a major public health challenge in Nigeria, the president cited the World Health Organisation (WHO) report of 2021, showing that Nigeria alone accounts for 27 per cent of all cases of malaria and 32 per cent of deaths globally.
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.
He 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.
Buhari also thanked 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 mnistry of Health and the malaria programme, in particular.
He also acknowledged the contributions of the Global Fund, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 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.
In his acceptance speech, Dangote thanked the president and all members of the council for entrusting him with the enormous responsibility, pledging to work hard to achieve the mandate.
“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,” he said.
“It is with humility that I today accept the responsibility to be the Chair of the National Malaria Elimination Council. I am also grateful to the Minister, Federal Ministry of Health for nominating me to serve in this capacity. I would also like to express my gratitude to all the members of the Council for entrusting me with an enormous responsibility which I pledge to fulfil.
“In 2016, Aliko Dangote Foundation supported the development of a Private Sector Engagement Strategy for Malaria Elimination in Nigeria. The document highlighted private sector support in the fight against malaria as well as a strategy for private sector engagement and steps for implementation. In fulfilling our longstanding commitment/investment to end malaria, my Foundation will continue to support all efforts at mobilising all sectors to end malaria in Nigeria and Africa at large,” Dangote added.
Speaking on behalf of the council members, Dangote said: “together we will work hard to ensure that malaria elimination remains high on Nigeria’s agenda with strong political commitment from leaders at all levels. We will advocate at the National and State levels to ensure sufficient funding for malaria elimination. The Council under my watch will drive progress toward malaria elimination by focusing on two key areas: Ensure that malaria elimination remains high on Nigeria agenda with strong political commitment from leaders at all levels; and advocate at all levels to ensure sufficient funding to protect the progress made so far, sustain the progress, and be on an irreversible pathway to ending malaria for good.”
The minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, and the minister of State for Health, Joseph Ekumankama Nkama, said since 2010, Nigeria has 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 has 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.
The council members are: Shehu Ibrahim, Permanent Secretary, Office of the Vice President on Political and Economic Affairs, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Sen. Yahaya Oloriegbe, chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Hon. Abubakar Dahiru, Chairman, House Committee on AIDS, TB and Malaria, Dr. Ehanire, Hon. Ekumankama, Mahmuda Mamman, Permanent Secretary, Federal Minister of Health.
Others include, Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Board of Directors, UBA, Folorunsho Alakija, CEO, Rose of Sharon Group, Herbert Wigwe, CEO, Access Bank, Femi Otedola, CEO Forte Oil, Hajiya Lami Lau, president, National Council of Women Societies, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Emeritus Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Alhaja Rafiyat Sanni, National Amira, Federation of Muslim Women Nigeria (FOWAN) and Dr. Perpetua Uhomoibhi, NEMC Secretariat/National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP).
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable. In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria worldwide. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 627,000 in 2020.
The WHO African Region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2020 the Region was home to 95 per cent of all malaria cases and 96 per cent of deaths. Children under five years of age accounted for about 80 per cent of all malaria deaths in the Region.
Four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.9 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (13.2 per cent), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1 per cent) and Mozambique (3.8 per cent)