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NigeriaDecides2023

Buhari picks Dangote to lead malaria elimination charge

…as Dangote pledges private sector support

Chairman of Aliko Dangote Foundation and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote has been 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 the Presidential Banquet Hall, Aso-Rock Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.

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, as well as 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.

Malaria, a life-threatening disease, is caused by the parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

The disease, although preventable and curable, remains one of the biggest diseases responsible for deaths in Nigeria.

In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria worldwide. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 627,000 in 2020, even as it was indicated that Nigeria alone accounts for 27 percent of all cases of malaria and 32 percent of deaths globally.

The WHO African region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2020 the region was home to 95 percent of all malaria cases and 96 percent of deaths. Children under 5 years of age accounted for about 80 percent of all malaria deaths in the region.

Four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.9%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (13.2%), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1%) and Mozambique (3.8%).

Read also: How Nigeria can tame rising inflation in coming months

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,” the president said.

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 reflected the commitment of the government to significantly reduce the malaria burden in Nigeria, to a level where it is no longer a public health issue.

President 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 ministry of halth and the malaria programme, in particular.

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.

In separate remarks, 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.

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