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BNSG to Offer Free Malaria Treatment in its Facilities – Eru

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BNSG to Offer Free Malaria Treatment in its Facilities
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From Chris Gaga, Makurdi

The Benue government has resolved to offer free malaria treatment in all its facilities, according to the Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr Emmanuel Eru

Eru disclosed this on Thursday in Makurdi, at a meeting organised by the health ministry in collaboration with Breakthrough Action-Nigeria (BA-N).

Represented by the Director, Public Health, Dr Terna Kur, the commissioner said that the resolve was in furtherance to government’s desire to rid the state of malaria.

“In line with this resolve, government has trained some personnel to shore up the quality of health services delivered to the people,” he said.

Eru called on BA-N to redouble its efforts in the fight against malaria, promising to give the organisation all  support required to enable it achieve the goal of eliminating malaria.

Also speaking, Mr Idowu Akanmu, Senior Technical Advisor of BA-N, said that the organisation would intervene in only eight, out of Benue’s 23 Local Government Areas.

Akanmu listed the local governments to include Kwande, Ushongo, Gboko, Tarka, Ado, Gwer East, Oju and Ogbadibo.

He also cautioned people against self medication, urging them to go for test whenever they had fever.

”If the test confirms that you have malaria, you should endeavour to treat it within 24 hours.”

He also advised people to sleep in treated mosquito nets, saying that the measure was one of the sure ways of eliminating malaria.

In his remarks, Mr Agbo Kusai, the State Logistics Advisor, Global Health Supply Chain (GHSC), appealed to medical personnel in the health facilities not to sell items meant for the treatment of malaria, “especially the drugs sent by donor agencies”.

Also speaking, Chief Sule Abenga, Chairman, Makurdi Traditional Council, and Rev Akpen Leva, State Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, pledged to sensitise people on the need to always sleep inside treated mosquito nets.

Health

Access to Healthcare: FG Revitalizes 8,300 PHCs in Nigeria 

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja 

In order to increase access to quality healthcare in Nigeria, the Federal government, FG, said  on Friday, that it has concluded arrangements to revitalize about 8,300 Primary HealthCare Centers,PHCs, across Nigeria. 

Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Ali Pate, revealed this at the Ministerial Sectoral Briefings organised by   office of 

Secretary to the Government of the Federation,  SGF, 

to mark the first anniversary of President Bola Tinubu’s administration, in Abuja.

 

The Minister of Health said  N260 billion have already been set aside  this purpose.

He also revealed that the FG intends to make the PHCs fully functional and upgraded them  to 17,000 in less than 3 years. 

 According to Pate, “We outlined a plan to revive 8300 primary health care centers across the nation to make them fully functional and to expand and upgrade to 17,000 Primary Health Care Centers over the next 3-years. 

“The expansion is to refurbish these centers, equip them, making them fully functional 

to deliver essential services such as immunization, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services, treatment of non-communicable diseases, and to facilitate 

referrals to secondary facilities. However, this ambitious plan requires the states to 

complement the efforts of the federal government.

“Regarding the revitalization of primary health care, which aligns with the President’s directive, I am pleased to report that 260 billion Naira is already currently available at the state level for this purpose through IDA financing and the BHCPF. 

“The revitalization 

of our primary health care centers hinges on the availability of resources and hence significant efforts made to mobilize and deploy the funds. We are now providing 

guidelines to assist the states in the implementation of the revitalization projects, ensuring that the resources are used prudently for their intended purposes”.

“We reviewed audits on the previous utilization of such financial resources and identified major gaps in several states. These issues were addressed through the National Economic Council and the Governors’ Forum. Our state governors have been instrumental in aligning with the President’s vision for increasing investments in the health sector. The transparency of disbursing the Primary Health Care Provision (BHCPF) funds was enhanced by conducting it publicly and establishing a hotline for 

Nigerians to report any misuse of resources. Oversight bodies such as the ICPC and EFCC are also encouraged to monitor to ensure that the implementation at the state level aligns with the intended objectives, particularly in terms of infrastructure and 

equipment and that the resources not misused”.

On capacity building, the Minister said, the ministry in the next three years have commenced training of over 

120,000 frontline health workers serving rural populations and they would  be equipped with the 

necessary skills, supported by the infrastructure and equipment we will provide.

He said, “At least 1,400 Primary Health Care Centers are now equipped to provide skilled birth attendance, funded through the NPHCDA and the NHIA, covering the 8,300 facilities.

More than 2,400 health workers, including nurses, doctors, and midwives,have been 

recruited to provide services to Nigerians, many of whom are women in rural areas 

delivering essential services”.

On vaccination, he said,  “In the area of vaccination, over 5 million Nigerian children have been vaccinated 

against diphtheria using pentavalent vaccine. More than 10 million Nigerian children received the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines. We are working hard to stop the circulating variant polio viruses showing up in Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi States. We have delivered measles vaccines to more than 5 million children to protect them against measles, and 4.95 million girls 9-14 years in 15 States have received HPV vaccines to protect them against cervical cancer, representing 80% target, among the highest in the world. 6 million more are planned to receive the vaccines in the next phase for 21 states starting from May 27, 2024.

“In terms of hospital equipment and infrastructure, the federal hospitals have 

successfully executed 201 specific infrastructure projects in the last 1 year. 

Additionally, 179 specific pieces of important medical equipment were procured by the federal government and distributed across the six geopolitical zones. In 33 of our federal tertiary hospitals, approximately 4.5 million Nigerians accessed outpatient 

health services, and 1.6 million had inpatient admissions. Showing that Nigerians are using the services provided by the Federal Government in those facilities, supported by an amazing army of health professionals.

“We are witnessing substantial upgrade in healthcare infrastructure, a testament to 

the President’s leadership. Plans are underway for the groundbreaking ceremony of 10 healthcare infrastructure projects, through the NSIA, across the six geopolitical zones, including diagnostic centers and oncology centers. These developments are part of a broader initiative involving public-private partnerships. We are moving 

forward with a major PPP to get to the full business case stage for expanding 

infrastructure and equipping 6 teaching hospitals”.

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Health

MHD: AHF Says 500 Million Menstruating People Experiences Period Poverty Globally, to End Stigma In Nigeria

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From Attah Ede, Makurdi

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Nigeria, has vowed to fight period poverty and eliminate the harmful stigma surrounding menstruation that keeps women and menstruating people of all ages from thriving.

To end period poverty in the country, AHF Nigeria is poised to place menstrual health issues as a key national agenda, and it is in this regard that they are committing resources to creating greater awareness in the general population and bringing different stakeholders to join the conversation.

The Foundation noted that an estimated 1.8 billion people menstruate globally, while 500 million experience period poverty, saying lack of access to menstrual health products, safe and clean facilities, and accepting communities count for this figure.

The Advocacy and Marketing Manager of AHF in Nigeria, Steve Aborisade, stated this in a statement he issued and made available to newsmen in Makurdi, Benue State capital, Sunday.

He was speaking ahead of this year’s Menstrual Health Day, being observed annually on May 28 to raises awareness about the importance of menstrual health education and resources.

Dr. Aborisade informed that already, the foundation has extended invitation to all on this Menstrual Health Day (MHD) at Government Senior Secondary School, Jabi, FCT, Abuja, Ibesikpo Secondary Commercial School, Nung Udoe, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state and in Agyogoyo Angwan-Jukun community, Makurdi, Benue state, on May 28.

He said they will use the commemorative events to distribute free sanitary pads and advocate for effective menstrual health management for all who need it.

According to him, in this year celebration, AHF Nigeria is having a multi-state commemoration to reach more young women and girls with menstrual health education and awareness and distribute free sanitary pads to as many girls as they can reach out to in their states of operation.

“Beyond these, AHF Nigeria is also working through some CSOs and CBOs to distribute free sanitary pads to young women and girls in communities across our program states.

“In Abuja, FCT, Ibesikpo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state and in Angwan-Jukun community, Makurdi, Benue state, AHF officials in collaboration with partners shall be hosting engaging outreach events to provide awareness and education about menstrual health management issues.

“We will also distribute free sanitary pads to young women and girls at these events. There will also be live radio engagements in Abuja, Uyo and Makurdi to propagate menstrual health management education widely.

“To end period poverty, AHF Nigeria is poised to place menstrual health issues as a key national agenda, and it is in this regard that we are committing resources to creating greater awareness in the general population and bringing different stakeholders to join the conversation.

” Young women and girls, irrespective of their location or social status must be able to have their periods in a safe and conducive environment and without the difficulties that a lack of access to sanitary products presently constitutes”, Aborisade stated,”

Dr. Aborisade however quoted AHF Nigeria Country Program Director, Dr. Eche Ijezie, as saying that “those identified barriers, along with stigma, can lead to poor health outcomes, missing school or work, and adverse effects on mental health”. 

“On this note, this Menstrual Health Day – let’s end period poverty and end the stigma”.

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Business News

Reps Reject Disengagement of Local Contractor from $100m Loan to Fight Malaria

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By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja 

The House of Representatives Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has lampooned the Ministry of Health over the disengagement of a local contractor in a $100 million loan agreement between Nigeria and the Islamic Development Bank meant to address the challenge of malaria in the country.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon Amobi Ogah in a stakeholders meeting to address the matter was displeased that succour that was expected through the intervention was yet to materialize even after signing the agreement in 2022.

In his ruling at the meeting, Amobi directed that Minister of Health, Prof Ali Muhammad Pate, who was in attendance to provide a comprehensive report of the transactions pertaining to the agreement to the committee within two weeks.

The report is expected to explain in detail why the local vendors approved for the agreement were disqualified and not given access to the job.

Amobi said the meeting was to resolve the logjam that seemed to have crippled the implementation of the Islamic Bank Loan to support malaria elimination in Nigeria under the Lives and Livelihood Project.

He said the project aims to reduce under-five mortality in Nigeria from 132 to 79 per 1,000 births by 2030.

“We are aware that Malaria continues to exert a huge burden on majority of Nigerians, with the greatest toll affecting children under 5 and pregnant women. Nigeria contributes 27% of the global malaria cases, (World Malaria Report, 2021) and 31% of global Malaria deaths. In view of this sad story every effort must be made to support any initiative that attempts to reduce or eliminate malaria burden in Nigeria. 

“However we are at a loss as to the reason why the Loan agreement between Nigeria and the Islamic Bank which is expected to last for 3 years, that is terminating by end of this year, has suffered monumental setback and we as the Parliament, representing the people of Nigeria who are affected and ravaged daily by malaria epidemic cannot fold our hands and watch matters degenerate so badly, hence our intervention in this matter.

“The Committee on ATM under my leadership has set a clear vision that it will no longer be business as usual, that Nigeria and Nigerians should be the focus of Government policies and programs. It is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers and, in this case, we know the grass; the grass is Nigerians ravaged and battered by malaria and the opportunity to receive succour through the intervention of the Islamic Bank loan is yet to materialise after the signing of agreement in 2022. We however, don’t know whether the Elephants fighting here is the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare? Or is it the Local Manufacturers of Insecticidal Nets? Or is it UNOPS?

“While the Committee is eager to hear from all the parties involved in this saga, we will make it categorically clear that as a Parliament we will not tolerate any entity that will toy with the lives of our people, we must think locally and grow our local capacity to ensure that malaria is eradicated from our Country. 

“There is nowhere in the world that sovereign laws of a State are not respected and obeyed and the Parliament will guard jealously the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it relates to Executive Orders and no entity or non state actors should go contrary to these Laws.

“We must put our House in order if we must win the fight against malaria, we cannot continue to pursue shadows and keep running in cycles while leaving out the substance and our people are worst for it. We must say enough is enough and be genuinely ready to do something meaningful for Nigeria and Nigerians. Therefore this contractual logjam must be resolved today one way or the other,” he said.

The Health Minister, Pate, said the agreement was reversed because there were issues with the local producer.

He said according to the design of the loan, there was an agreement by the government to utilise a United Nations procurement agent, UNOPS, and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed.

“The provisions for all commodities, drugs test kits would be channelled through UNOPS in particular, those that are going to be produced here should be bought here. For bed nets in specific terms, the original MOU was for the bed nets to be procured using national competitive bidding on the assumption that they were three local producers who are prequalified.

“Of the three only one was prequalified and that is the company in the country that was to be involved. The tender process started in early 2023. The process ran into procedural difficulty and it was suspended by UNOPS in an open and transparent manner and investigated. Consequently the MOU was reversed because there were issues with this sole producer. Amendment was made to go for international competitive bidding and that revised MOU was signed by a member of the government,” he said.

He acknowledged that the country still has a malaria challenge and the Islamic Development Loan is a major effort that started four years ago as part of Nigeria’s effort to achieve malaria elimination.

He said, “It is a $100 million loan that was meant for five states, Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Kogi and FCT. The Federal Government signed and negotiated the loan and also state level legal agreements with those five entities were constructed by the Islamic Development Bank though and the Ministry of Finance so that they are borrowing that money to implement the malaria programme.”

According to him, the $100 million dollars consisted of a $90 million loan that is repayable and a $10 million grant.

He said, “This was done in 2020 and the implementation activity started. Since that loan was signed and became effective, a total of $62 million was disbursed through the UNOPS in two tranches. For the Ministry of Health only $201, 000 dollars has been spent from the proceeds at the federal level.

“Of what has been disbursed to UNOPS as the procurement agent as per the agreement that was designed and signed by the federal government on behalf of those states for this loan, there is a balance of $54 million that is still with UNOPS. So only about $8 million dollars has been utilised in buying drugs, kits, and commodities necessary as part of the programme and on their way to be delivered because UNOPS was agreed to be the procurement agents.

“So the $54 million that is at hand is what we are looking at how it can be executed. There is another part of the loan that has not yet been disbursed to UNOPS. So if you look at it almost 90 percent of this resource is yet to be activated and 98 percent of it all is yet to be activated and utilised.”

Director and Representative of the UNOPS, Ghana Multi Country Office, Ifeoma Charles-Monwuba, said there was an anomaly with local contractor lacked capacity hence the need to terminate their agreement.

She said, “The agreement with UNOPS was signed in September 2022, however there was a clause inserted that meant that that if it did not become effective until December 2022 and by January 2023 we did a training for local vendors that were supposed to participate, we did a training for them and by February 2023 the tender launched. 

“Like the Minister said in evaluating particularly the bed nets, they were issues. For the antimalarial drugs, all the anti medicines have been procured and all locally procured. All have undergone quality control testing and we have written to the national malaria programme to bring the distribution list so the local manufacturer can distribute that. 

“So local manufacturing and procurement of medicine has been done. For the medicine not manufactured locally, it was agreed to be procured internationally. Shipments have started arriving. All the other products are already on track and it’s the bed nets that is the issue.”

The Committee said according to a submission by UNOPS, a United Nations agent, employed as the procurement agent for the project the reasons for dropping the local contractor were unclear.

It said according to the submission there were conflicting reasons given for the action including that it was due to an anomaly, that the local contractor lacked capacity, that they needed to change specifications and that they had information from a whistleblower on why the agreement should be discontinued.

Responding, the Committee Chairman, Ogah, said, “With due respect, what UNOPS has done in this transaction is so bad because if they can tell us as a country that they cannot tell us what the local manufacturer has done that made them disqualify this local manufacturer. The reason why we are all here is because of Nigeria. If it is a grant or aid it would be different. We are here because it is a loan that we are going to pay back with interest. We demand a report from the Ministry

“Anything that would undermine our quest to encourage local producers and manufacturers we seriously frown on it. All of a sudden the whole intent and purpose were changed in favour of foreign bid to supply the materials whereas as we have one which you earlier pre-qualified and all of a sudden it was set aside to encourage foreigners to supply the net in Nigeria,” he said.

The Speaker, Rt Hon Tajudeen Abbas, who was represented by the House Leader, Prof Julius Ihonvbare, hoped the matter would be resolved amicably.

“With the calibre of members of the committee, I have no doubt that whatever is causing the challenge would be resolved.

“We have a commitment to protect the local market and producers and encourage local production to prevent capital flight and encourage the development of skills and capacity to do better.

“We are shocked the matter has lasted this long. Many of us come from rural constituencies with poor access to medical services and we know now our people are suffering, so for an Mou to be signed and it has taken over four years is an embarrassment and hope we can resolve the matter and find the way forward,” he said 

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