By Cecilia Ijuo
Abuja – The Senate on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to fast-track access to the 300 million dollar malaria bond by the Global Fund to fight malaria, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and tuberculosis.
This followed a motion by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Olanrewaju Tejuoso, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The motion is titled: “Urgent need for the Federal Government to access a $300 million Malaria Bond through the Innovative Financing for Malaria Prevention and Control Project (IMPACT)’’.
Tejuoso (APC-Ogun) commended the Global Fund for providing the bond to help tackle the diseases.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the “Global Fund’’ is an international financing organisation that aims to “attract and disburse additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria’’.
NAN further reports that, being a public-private partnership, the organisation has it secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.
The organisation began operations in January 2002, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, being one of the first private foundations among many bilateral donors to provide seed money for the project.
The prayers of the motion were unanimously adopted by the lawmakers in a voice vote.
Presenting the motion, Tejuoso expressed concern, quoting statistics indicating that malaria was a major public health problem in the country.
The statistics showed an estimated 100 million cases of malaria on an annual basis as well as 97 per cent of Nigerian population being at risk of transmission.
He further said that malaria was killing 300,000 people yearly in Nigeria, while the country accounted for roughly one quarter of all malaria infections and deaths in the world.
“Malaria accounts for about 23 per cent of the entire burden of disease in Nigeria and is responsible for the deaths of 250,000 children under five years old in the country annually.
“Children who survive malaria usually have problems of cognitive and physical development.
“There is also an equity dimension to the malaria issue in the country as it disproportionately affects the poor.
“The poor and vulnerable in our constituencies bear the greatest burden,’’ he said.
While commending the effort of the federal government at stemming the spread of malaria in the last 10 years, Tejuoso said there was room for improvement.
He pointed out that malaria, besides health implication, constituted a huge economic loss to Nigeria.
According to him, malaria diverts resources from our healthcare facilities and not only does it cost loss of lives, it is crippling our economic development.
The committee chairman quoted the National Malaria Elimination Programme as estimating the annual financial loss due to malaria, at about N132 billion in the form of treatment costs and loss of man hours, among others.
He said that in view of the substantial funding gaps for control of malaria, accessing the bond was an opportunity to mobilise additional resources for the health problem in a difficult fiscal context.
He said accessing that the bond had numerous advantages for the country, which he said, include the innovative financing mechanism that allows government to sign performance-based contracts with private entities.
“Accessing the bond would guarantee a 45-million-dollar in grant financing to be given to Nigeria by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
“This bond, if combined with the malaria bond, would bring the borrowing rate of interest to zero,’’ he said.
Seconding the motion, Sen. Aliyu Wamakko (APC-Sokoto) said the motion was timely in view of the havoc malaria had caused over the years.
According to Wamakko, the explanations given by the sponsor of the bill were detailed enough to get the Senate approval.
He said: “I second the motion because the content is so convincing and accurate.’’
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, commended Tejuoso for tabling the motion.
According to him, the motion is very important given the numerous challenges posed by the disease.
“I believe that in fighting malaria, the federal government needs to take up this initiative quickly before the expiry date of March 2017.
“Getting access to this concessionary rate of the World Bank would go a long way in fighting malaria,’’ Saraki said.