ECOWAS, PARTNERS TAKE BOLD STEP TO ELIMINATE MALARIA
ABUJA, Nigeria, April 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- ECOWAS and its partners have achieved another milestone in their stride towards the elimination of malaria in the region with the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of a biolarvicides factory in Port Harcourt, capital of Nigeria's south eastern Rivers State.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission His Excellency Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo and Nigeria's Minister of Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who represented President His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, unveiled the plaque at a well-attended ceremony on Thursday 11th April 2013.
The Nigerian factory is one of the three being built in three ECOWAS Member States under a Tripartite Agreement between ECOWAS, Cuba and Venezuela for the production of boilarvicides, a safe substance that kills the larvae of malaria vectors, mosquitoes. The two other factories are earmarked for Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana under the campaign which seeks to eliminate malaria in the region by 2015.
Under the campaign, ECOWAS seeks to strengthen the vector control component of the intervention to rid West Africa of malaria, which is a major public health problem that also stunts the economic development of the region and Africa as a whole.
The ground breaking ceremony was preceded by a Town Hall Meeting at the packed 5,000-capacity Diete Spiff Civic Centre, Port Harcourt, where representatives of civil society organizations, religious and traditional rulers, women and youth groups and ECOWAS Commission officials, among others, discussed the ramifications of malaria vector control intervention, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged as the only strategy that can reduce malaria transmission from high level to zero.
During the session, a panel of experts headed by Dr. Chioma Amajoh, the immediate past National Coordinator of Nigeria's Malaria Control Programme, fielded questions from the audience. Dr. Amajoh, nicknamed “Mama Malaria” for her sustained anti-malaria efforts, underscored the need for all stakeholders - governments, Non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the citizens to play their role to make the regional campaign a huge success.
Addressing the gathering, President Ouédraogo reaffirmed ECOWAS' commitment and determination to eliminate the malaria scourge so as to free resources for the economic development and to enable the region attain its full potentials.
The Organization's major priorities of peace and security coupled with economic development cannot be achieved unless such threats as malaria are effectively addressed, he added.
The president commended development partners especially the governments of Cuba and Venezuela for supporting the ECOWAS campaign, noting that all hands should be on deck until the war against malaria is won. He also expressed confidence in the prospect of achieving the 2015 date for malaria elimination, while expressing the Commission's appreciation to the government and people of Rivers State and especially Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, one of Nigeria's two Malaria Ambassadors for partnering with ECOWAS on the anti-malaria initiative.
In an address on behalf of President Jonathan, Health Minister Prof. Chukwu thanked ECOWAS leaders for initiating the Campaign with the two Latin American countries providing both financial and technology transfer support.
He listed the Federal Government's various malaria initiatives and highlighted the need to strengthen indoor residual spraying of mosquitoes as well as environmental sanitation through the reintroduction of sanitary health inspectors in the country.
Governor Chibuike reaffirmed Rivers State's total support to the regional campaign and promised that the government would do all that is required to ensure that the state maintained its lead in the national malaria elimination campaign.
Speaking in the same vein, the State Commissioner for Health Dr. Tamunoiyoriari Sampson Parker described the ceremony as “a paradigm shift and historic event for us as it marks the build up of efforts to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and eventual target of zero-incidence in locally contracted malaria”
There were also goodwill messages from the WHO and Nigeria's Minister of Defence, represented by Dr. Uzor Chima, who expressed the hope that the proposed involvement of military personnel would provide the regional campaign with the discipline and precision needed for its successful prosecution.
Dr. Adhiambo Odaga, Managing Director of Dangote Foundation, who represented business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, another Malaria Ambassador and head of the Dangote Group, pledged the Group's support to the regional anti-malaria initiative and stressed the need for public-private sector collaboration.
The Cuban envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Milanes Ramos Hugo, who attended the two events with his wife, reiterated his country's total commitment and support to the ECOWAS campaign as a demonstration of South-South cooperation.
In his vote of thanks, the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh thanked the partner countries, the Rivers State Government, the Local Organizing Committee and Governor Amaechi in particular, for lending their full support to the ECOWAS campaign, which is in furtherance of the ECOWAS of people agenda and the goal of regional development and integration.
The ECOWAS Heath Adviser, Dr. Mariane Ngoulla appealed to all stakeholders to be effective in their roles, adding that instead of being “mosquito farmers” necessary measures should be taken to stop the indiscriminate breeding of the malaria vector.
The ECOWAS delegation to the twin-event included Mr. Sunny Ugoh, the Director of Communication and Dr. Johnson Buanuh, Director of Environment, who explained that studies by the Commission have shown that the biolarvicides for the campaign are safe. The Private Sector Director, Mr. Alfred Braimah, also explained that apart from producing the substance for malaria elimination, the three factories will also create jobs in the region.