The Global Fund’s grant of $225 million ( about N36 billion) to assist Nigeria fight the deadly malaria scourge has once again highlighted the urgent need for value-for-money audit of foreign and domestic funding to ascertain the nation’s degree of success or failure in the battle against Africa’s number one killer disease. The Federal Government recently in Abuja, signed the funding agreement which brings the total Global Fund assistance to Nigeria to about $1.5 billion since 2004 when $971 million grant was approved.
The Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, said the grant heralded a new way of addressing the nation’s fight against malaria. He stated that about N27 billion of the first grant would be disbursed to the 36 states of the federation and Abuja through public and private sector agencies. Provision of imported insecticidetreated nets in the phase two of the initiative would gulp N8 billion. The FG, Chukwu said, would provide N1.6 billion counterpart funding for the exercise.
However, the international community (of donors) seems worried that Nigeria has become a bad case because their financial assistance to battle malaria does not achieve the intended goals. Officials of the FG, according to reports, pocket the foreign donations. The ailment claims the lives of an estimated 300,000 people in Nigeria alone and one million in Africa, every year. Added to the casualty figure are billions of lost man hours, school absenteeism, and general debility that reduce the productivity of the working population. Perhaps most vulnerable are children under the age of five years, as well as pregnant women.
In the Konduga Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno State, for example, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 80 per cent of the children and pregnant women are under the threat of being decimated by high malaria infestation. Yet, husbands in the area have reportedly refused their wives and children access to protective malaria immunization.
In effect, ignorance appears a major challenge to routing malaria in the land. The government at all levels, however, has recorded insignificant public enlightenment efforts to arrest the malaria (parasite) epidemic from wreaking maximum havoc on the populace. Worsening the situation appears the fact that Nigeria has no definitive policy on malaria control, despite the establishment of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP). If the contrary is the case, the FG, particularly, should make public its major policy goals: prevention or curative, other than mere rhetoric. The global donor community has not been comfortable with Nigeria’s faltering malaria control policies and the monumental corruption perpetrated by government agencies, officials and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) through which malaria control funds are channeled. In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) lamented that Nigeria and the war-ravaged Republic of Congo accounted for 30 to 40 percent of malaria-related deaths worldwide. Without taming malaria, WHO has predicted gloom for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the country. Besides, the Roll-Back Malaria global launch in Abuja about 10 years ago is yet to yield any appreciable result. The Organization had in 2008, voted $1.2 billion to fight malaria in Nigeria and Congo.
Global skepticism about the dubious deployment of donated anti-malaria funds in Nigeria was once echoed by Debrewwork Zewdie, a director of the Global Fund. Zewdie, however, stated that Global Fund wanted to prove skeptics wrong that Nigeria was a bad case; and would therefore put in place a mechanism to monitor the utilization of disbursed funds to ensure accountability and transparency, two key ingredients vital for further inflow of foreign assistance from multilateral and bilateral agencies to reverse the high malaria morbidity and mortality rates in the country.
Consequently, the federal, state, and local governments should design a comprehensive policy for the eradication of malaria if the nation is really determined to frontally confront the malaria scourge. Public enlightenment on eradicating the sources of mosquito infestation and preventive environmental sanitation, using sanitary inspectors, seem to have become imperative. There is likewise the need to research and develop local and exportable herbal recipes for malaria as the Chinese do, instead of relying wholly on imported therapies some of which are faked.
Research has shown, for instance, that 80 per cent of antimalaria drugs in Nigeria are impotent; while imported insecticide- treated mosquito nets hardly achieve the desired results as they are sold in urban markets at exorbitant prices instead of being distributed free to rural communities as intended by the government.