ABUJA, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday inaugurated a public-private partnership council for the elimination of malaria, a major public health issue in the most populous African country.
Buhari, while inaugurating the 16-member End Malaria Council(EMC) in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, said 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 the country.
"Our inauguration today will therefore ensure that malaria elimination remains a priority on our agenda, with strong political commitment from leaders at all levels," the Nigerian leader said, noting that the successful implementation of the council's agenda and savings from the estimated economic burden of the disease would save the west African nation a huge cost.
Buhari said the EMC will provide a platform to advocate for more funding to protect and sustain progress made so far by Nigeria, putting the country on a pathway to ending malaria for good.
Expressing concern that the age-long disease had remained a major public health challenge in Nigeria, the president cited the World Health Organization report of 2021, showing that Nigeria alone accounts for 27 percent of all cases of malaria and 32 percent of deaths globally.
"Malaria infection can cause severe disease and complication in pregnant women and lead to high rates of miscarriage. It is also responsible for a considerable proportion of deaths in infants and young children, with children under 5 years being the most vulnerable group affected. These are reasons we must not relent in fighting malaria," he said.
The EMC in Nigeria is headed by Aliko Dangote, one of Africa's richest billionaires, and also the founder and president of the Dangote Group. Buhari explained that his choice of Dangote to chair the EMC was in recognition of his track record and passion for supporting initiatives on various health issues such as polio and primary health care system strengthening.
"I have been informed that the EMC has already been established in other African countries, in line with the African Union Assembly Declaration for Establishment of EMCs in Africa," the Nigerian leader said, adding the EMCs have provided leadership, new funding, and innovation to enable these countries to stay on track to meet malaria burden reduction targets.
Buhari tasked the council to reflect the government's commitment to significantly reducing the malaria burden in Nigeria, to a level where it is no longer a public health issue. He added that with the additional advocacy and funding, the council will bring to the malaria control drive, Nigerian citizens would anticipate a significant reduction in the malaria burden.
According to official data by the Nigerian government, the country had since 2010 been recording a continuous decline in malaria, from 42 percent in 2010, and 27 percent in 2015, to 23 percent in 2018.