There is no doubt
that the contributions of international donor agencies towards the elimination of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria is immeasurable.
In fact, from the point at which donor agencies came on Salvage Mission in Nigeria, they have virtually been vested with the responsibility of providing HIV/AIDS commodities in the country.
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, for instance, said it has disbursed more than $81.4 billion in Nigeria since 2003. Nigeria, they said, currently represents their largest portfolio with a total of $81.1 billion allocated to fighting HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in 2014 to 2016.
On its part, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) 2012: 59 stated that $300 million was committed in 2007 in expenditure on implementing HIV/AIDS programme in Nigeria.
Of this amount, the majority in the sum of $225,392,257.00 amounting to (85.3%), was from international funds, with bilateral contributions totalling $197,219,307.00, which amounts to (19.43%).
The rest were from International Not-for-Profit organizations and foundations amounting to $32,479 (0.01%).
The same trend was recorded in 2008 with international funds contributing 92.3% of the $364,581,432.00 of the total expenditure.
Meanwhile, $364,581,432.00 (80.8%), $845,477,907,00 (11.5%) and $63,00.00 (0.01%) were respectively contributed by the direct bilateral contributing multilateral agencies and International Non Profit Organizations and Foundations.
Investigations revealed that under the consolidated phase 1 of Rounds 5,8 and 9 Global Fund HIV/AIDS Grant (2009-2012), NACA received about $151.6m for HIV/AIDS activities in the country.
It further gathered that about $228m was later approved for Phase ll (2013-2015) for the scalling up of gender sensitive HIV/AIDS, Prevention, treatment care and support for adult and children including health and community strengthening in Nigeria.
In spite of these and other contributions, in October 2014, the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDs in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), mobilized its members in Abuja to protest at the NACA office over perceived responsiveness of the agency to the dwindling fortunes of the HIV treatment programme in Nigeria.
NEPWHAN’s National Coordinator, Victor Omoshein, had said: “We are concerned with the miserable conditions of PLWHIV in Nigeria, as well as the high number of people dying daily of AIDS related complication in large part to lack of access to Anti-retroviral (ARV) medications as a result of withdrawal support by donor agencies.
Omoshein continued that “only 649,000 out of about 1.8million in need of treatment have access to drugs”. This figure represented about 30 per cent of treatment needs.
The immediate past Director General of NACA, Professor John Idoko had responded then that there were challenges. But he reiterated Government’s Commitment to scalling up from 600,000 to 1.4million. People on treatment, though he did not give a time frame for this ambition.
The real picture of HIV/AIDS response in Nigeria can be seen clearer when it dawns that from inception, funding for Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS intervention has been donor dependent and donor driven as 90 per cent of available funds came from donor agencies.
These agencies get involved in various forms of support ranging from training of personnel, provisions of technical knowhow, supply of life-saving drugs and kits, etc.
Comparatively, the contributions of Nigerian government was mainly reduced to the provision of physical infrastructure, such as provision of health facilities and payment of salaries of medical and other allied personnel employed. The core and major burden of intervention have been borne by the donor agencies.
However, most donor organizations have had issues with lack of accountability in the management of funds by Nigerian officials. This had become a cardinal problem that has short-changed the success of the Nigerian intervention.
The result is that on several occasions, there had been drugs stock-out, which had resulted in truncation of treatment.
There had also been instances where expired drugs were dispensed, as well as fake and substandard testing kits been deployed to counseling and testing centres.
Meanwhile, myriads of PLWHIV lack access to life-saving drugs, while officials have had to destroy valuable supplies due to the expiration of the drugs.
The question that readily comes to mind is, why were these drugs not supplied to those who required them before they got bad.
In Rivers State for instance, FHI 360 is the major provider of HIV/AIDS commodities. The implication is that if FHI 360 seizes to supply these drugs and given that the state government has not given any clear indication to commence the purchase and distribution of HIV/AIDS commodities, the fate of PLWHIV can at best be imagined.
The reason given by donor agencies for their gradual withdrawal include the global financial crisis and changes in their focus of priority, as well as funds available and the allegation of mismanagement of funds by Nigerian officials.
It is notworthy that although these donor agencies have made their intentions to pull out known long ago, nothing concrete seemed to have been done by the Nigerian government in terms of seeking solutions to replace loopholes likely to be warranted by such pull out.
The effect is that when the total pull out is finally implemented and there are not enough remedies, Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS status will be worse than what it is currently.
Beyond the alleged mismanagement of fund meant for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is a serious lack in policies to ensure smooth running of efforts geared towards checking the HIV/AIDS trend in Nigeria.
The situation is further worsened by the fact that the National Assembly has slashed NACA’s proposed N18.9billion HI V/AIDS budget for the 2016 physical year to N1.5billion.
If donor agencies have invested billions in Dollars to check the trend of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and the Nigeria government is only willing to invest N1.5billion, the implication smirks of doom.
This is because, if all the billions in dollars could only place Nigeria where it is today in HIV/AIDS, treatment, prevention, care and support, where would N1.5billion place the country. Especially given the present setting of chronic mismanagement of funds?
COVID-19: ‘No Challenge In Community Sensitisation’
As the fight to prevent the rampaging Coronavirus from infecting Rivers people continues, part of the measures adopted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in reaching out to communities has so far not experienced any notable challenges.
The Lead Coordinator for the State Rapid Response Team for COVID-19, Mr Modekai Ifemide Olowole, who made this known after a recent routine assessment of performance of the Rapid Response Team on sensitization in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt LGAs stated that the compliance level has been encouraging.
Olowole, who credited the success recoded so far to the existing mechanism in place, explained that the sensitisation team of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) works with Institutions on ground , adding that: ‘We have come together to offer our support.
“What we did was to sensitise the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to know how they can engage the communities in whatever they are doing.
“If while doing that they need some support from us, we have a Rapid Response Team (RRT) that are working on ground. They have mobility, they have everything,” he said.
According to him, each time any of the Civil Society Organisations has palliatives for instance, to give to members of any community, they use the opportunity to make presentations on COVID-19 preventive measures.
The RRT, sponsored by UNICEF in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Health, and the Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), he said, decided to adopt the method, knowing that many people in the communities are more bothered by how to overcome hunger than COVID-19.
“If you look at it economically, everybody is hungry. If you go to a community and tell them you want to sensitise them on how to wish hands, they will tell you they are hungry,” he said.
This, he explained further, is part of what Risk Communication entails, and is the platform through which UNICEF aims to support the state.
“UNICEF’s aim is to support the state wherever they are working to pilot a model that is of international best practices and present to the state. That is what we’re doing now,” he said.
WHO Warns Against Lifting COVID-19 Lockdown
The World Health Organisation, WHO, yesterday urged countries to apply caution in lifting COVID-19 lockdowns, warning of a resurgence of infections if current restrictions were relaxed too soon.
WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai,said this during an online media briefing in Manila, The Tide source reports.
Kasai said that lockdown measures have proven effective by reducing transmission of the highly infectious disease while easing the burden on the overstretched health system.
“This is going to be a long battle. This is not the time to relax,” Kasai said.
Instead, he stressed the need to be ready for “a new way of living that strikes the right balance between the measures to keep the virus in check and enable vital parts of the economy and society to function.”
Kasai urged people in the region to protect themselves, their family and their community by physically distancing and frequently cleaning their hands.
Others are covering coughs and sneeze as well as staying at home and away from others, especially when sick.
He also urged the private sector to adopt new ways of working, such as establishing staff to work from home where possible and other measures to reduce the risk of infections in the workplace.
“For the government, this means preparing for the worst, having a system that works in every corner of the country to detect and care for people in case of large-scale community transmission,” he said.
Already, Kasai said, COVID-19 had upended millions of peoples’ lives and had caused a major economic impact on the world.
He said that the governments in the region were making “extremely complex decisions about introducing or enhancing or easing or lifting lockdowns and physical distancing measures.
“As we move forward in these difficult times, our lives, our health systems and approach to stopping transmission must continue to adapt and evolve along with the epidemic.”
According to him, until a vaccine is found, the process of adapting to the epidemic will have to become a new normal.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing this but WHO strongly urges that decisions on measures be guided by public health principles, the lifting of lockdowns, and other measures that need to be done gradually.
“If restrictions are relaxed or lifted before the strong system is in place to identify, isolate and care for this sick, and trace and quarantine their contacts, this will likely lead to a resurgence of diseases.
“As long as the new Coronavirus is circulating, no country is safe from potentially overwhelming outbreaks,” he said.
As at yesterday, Ghana had lifted its three weeks lock down imposed to tackle the spread of the disease.
COVID-19: Body Charges Rivers On Thorough Hand Washing
Amidst fears associated with the dreaded Coronavirus, which has been detected in most states, the Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), says it has taken necessary precautionary measures to combat the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Speaking while fielding questions from journalists, the General Manager of the Rivers State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), Mr. Napoleon Adah, said such measures were aimed at raising awareness on proper and regular hand washing, and the use of alcohol base hand sanitiser.
“As an agency saddled with the responsibility of hand washing and personal hygiene, we are working in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Rivers State Ministry of Health in order to carry out adequate advocacy and sensitisation to the communities on the inherent dangers of COVID-19,” Adah said.
He further commended the Rivers State Governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike for his effective leadership to curb the spread of the virus in Rivers State.
According to him, there are several committees set up by the Governor to create adequate awareness in the area of COVID-19. This, he said has invariably made the state to be Coronavirus free.
The RUWASSA boss, who is also an environmental disaster risk management expert, noted that the agency in collaboration with UNICEF is currently working out modalities to provide automatic hand washing facilities to the various LGAs of Rivers State.
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