Health experts and relevant parties in the fight against Malaria have urged the Nigerian government to increase budgetary allocation to combat the disease’s consequences.
This is following the dwindling funding for malaria prevention campaign in the country, especially from donor agencies.
They made the call on Thursday in Abuja at the dissemination meeting to announce the end of ‘Support to the National Malaria Programme Phase 11 (SuNMaP2),’ a follow up to SuNMaP1 that supported the Nigerian government’s efforts to further reduce the nation’s malaria burden.
The UK-Aid funded programme, which was implemented by the Malaria Consortium, specifically targeted improving the planning, financing and delivery of sustainable malaria programmes across 165 local government areas in six states of Nigeria.
The beneficiary states are Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Lagos, and Yobe.
The goal of the programme, according to the organisers, was achieved through partnerships with key stakeholders in the planning, financing and delivery of sustainable and replicable pro-poor service for malaria management.
The programme funders announced the discontinuation of the project last week. They said this was to allow them to move resources to other key health priorities impacted by the COVID-19.
International donors including the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; World Bank, the UK’s Department for International Development and the American President’s Malaria Initiative, have played a significant role in scaling up malaria prevention in Nigeria.
But with the COVID-19 incursion taking a toll on health systems and economies across the globe, donor funding is reducing significantly to execute the war against the disease in Nigeria.
Beyond donor support
In his remarks, the national SuNMaP 2 Team Lead, Nihinlola Mabogunje, said governments at all levels should plan beyond donor support.
“We have created that awareness that people should start thinking beyond donors; how they can be self-reliant,” she said.
“SuNMaP2 from day one was on the issue of sustainability, the first two years was to build the capacity of the National Malaria Elimination Programme.
“The third year was to transit and then the fourth year was to mentor. We are supposed to be in the third year; we are not exactly where we want to be, but one thing that is clear to me is that we must start asking questions about what we should do if money stops coming from donors,” Ms Mabogunje explained.
The team lead said Nigerian authorities should start thinking inward on how to continue the SunNMap programmes with domestic funds.
She also expressed optimism that some states where the project was implemented will mobilise domestic resources in a sustainable manner and continue with the project.
“The whole essence of SuNMaP2 is about increasing domestic resources and reducing out of pocket expenditure for the common man.
“I guess we are getting there with the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) that the government is building up and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).”
Also on her part, Olufunmilayo Sanni Adeniyi, Director, National Malaria Elimination Programme shared the federal government’s plans towards mobilising and increasing domestic resources for Malaria.
She said the government was working towards setting up an ‘End Malaria Council Fund’ which is like a basket fund for Malaria where everyone could donate resources for Malaria.
The director, however, called on philanthropists, banks, and oil companies to support the malaria fight in the country.
Gafar Alawode, a programme director of the SuNMaP2 project said the programme helped in the development of a roadmap for sustainable financing for Malaria and built the capacity of state and non-state actors on ways to mobilise resources.
He, however, regretted that the timeframe of the project was truncated due to the global meltdown from COVID-19.
Concerns on domestic funding raised by the health experts builds on a 2019 survey, which warned that funding gaps across the African continent may hinder the achievement of the global target for malaria elimination by 2030.
The survey, Malaria Futures for Africa (MalaFa), the first systematic attempt in many years to collate African experts’ views on malaria policy found that countries in Africa are highly unlikely to meet the 2030 deadline in the fight against Malaria if considerable changes did not occur in especially local funding and delivery.
Reason for 2030 target
The failure of the Millennium Development Goal 6 for 2015– to combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases– brought about the 2030 target.
In May 2015, the World Health Assembly adopted a global strategy by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with a vision to make the world free of Malaria in 2030.
The ultimate goal is to reduce malaria cases and deaths by 90 per cent and to make at least 35 countries free of Malaria as compared to that of 2015.
Though monumental progress has been made, Malaria still remains lethal in endemic countries such as Nigeria.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria accounted for 25 per cent of the world’s malaria cases in 2018, with 53 million cases and nine deaths per hour.
Children are the worst affected, according to the 2018 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS).
Already, Nigeria missed out on its 2014-2020 National Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP) of reaching pre-elimination status for the disease (less five per cent which can be interpreted as less than 5000 cases per 100,000 people) and zero mortality from the disease.
While COVID-19 played a role in taking the target off track, poor funding widened the gap in resource mobilisation.
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