Standing Against Terrorism, 1050 Leaders from 70 Countries Open WEF in Abuja

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Efforts to reduce maternal and infant mortality and save lives received a boost Thursday at the ongoing World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), when the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, former Minister of State for Health, Prof. Muhammed Ali Pate, former Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, and others launched a $24 million initiative geared towards saving one million lives in Nigeria.

Announcing the launch of the “Save One Million Lives Initiative”, Dangote said the money would be deployed “to kick off the implementation of the saving of one million lives under an initiative in Nigeria and to ensure that we meet our collective goals, including meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015”.

He spoke at the launch under the theme, “Health Agenda for the Private Sector Joint Advocacy and Commitment Declaration”, that is meant to streamline the means through which the private sector can provide the synergy needed to build the coalition to scale up Nigeria’s health care system.

According to Dangote, Nigeria “needs about $56.5 million over the next two years to meet its health-related MDGs, starting with 14 pilot states selected for the programme”.

He explained that the fund, under the auspices of the Private Sector Health Alliance (PSHA), is aimed at “making a declaration to meet the MDGs through advocacy and tap into health market potential” in the country.

Pate told the gathering that the Save One Million Lives initiative” entails the private sector working closely with government to demonstrate its commitment to saving the lives of Nigerians, thereby pushing the drive for sustainable health care service delivery.

In his remarks, Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, commended the efforts of the private sector, especially PSHA, for its intervention by boosting the health care system for optimum results. Chukwu further informed the donors that with their commitment, “their balance sheets will continue to improve”, while the government would continue to support the private sector through policy formulation, coordination and implementation.

The minister also harped on the need for the private sector to strengthen its support base through the passage of the National Health Bill and the full implementation of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

In his presentation, Managing Director of PSHA, Dr. Muntaqa Uwar-Sadiq said the programme would in the long run strengthen Nigeria’s health sector through “scaling up promising health innovations in the marketplace, investing in the health sector to enable stakeholders achieve the scaling up of improved healthcare, and contributing to economic growth.”

He added that the initiative would further facilitate investments, unlock new local markets and shape new investments in underserved segments of the health value chain.

Furthermore, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Muhammad, said the prompt intervention of the private sector in the health sector had started yielding positive results with the reduction of vaccine preventable diseases.

He cited the increase in immunisation of children and the reduction in the spread of polio as practical examples of benefits in public private partnerships.

Speaking on behalf of the governors, who attended the meeting, Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, assured participants at the launch of the state governments’ commitment to accelerate private sector intervention in the health sector.

Wada called for a collective effort so that it would give way to a unified policy for tackling health challenges in the country.

Others who spoke at the launch included former First Lady of Kwara State and Founder of Wellbeing Foundation, Mrs .Toyin Saraki, UNICEF Country Director, Ms. Jean Gough, officials from the World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), USAID, General Electric (GE) and KPMG, among other guests.

The fund will target areas such as malaria, nutrition, advocacy, diarrhoea, pneumonia, immunisation and vaccine logistics.

Dangote also announced that he would be investing $2.3 billion in sugar and rice production in the northern part of Nigeria to create jobs.

Cumulatively, Dangote said he would invest $12 billion in Nigeria and $4 billion outside the country over the next four years.

He said creating employment was key to ending insurgency in the region.

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