U.S. Malaria Support – a Tale of Two Countries: Ghana and Nigeria

Both Ghana and Nigeria received attention in the Press during the past week because of U.S. foreign assistance. The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) launched its activities in Ghana (one of 15 countries receiving PMI support) under the theme “Let’s Come Together and Drive Malaria Away.” Reports estimate that Ghana with an estimated population of approximately 23 million will receive around $US 6 million annually over the next three years from PMI. We congratulate their efforts.

Nigeria also made the headlines when President Yar’Adua visited the White House. The US President observed that Mr. Yar’Adua “is strongly committed to helping the Nigerian families affected by these diseases (HIV and malaria) get treatment and help.” The US pledged more funding for HIV, not malaria in this country of 140 million. Nigeria has received less than $US 3 million annually for malaria activities as a ‘non-focus’ country as regards PMI.

Reports noted that Nigeria has the third highest number of HIV cases in the world, which is seen as justification for continued HIV support, even though targets have not been achieved. Due to its sheer size and its location in a Plasmodium falciparum endemic zone, Nigeria is also likely to have the one of the highest number of malaria cases and the highest number of malaria deaths, too.

Nigeria met all criteria for inclusion in the PMI effort except for one fact, its population. PMI’s goal of covering 15 countries with a total population of 170 million could not have accommodated Nigeria. This is not to say Nigeria lacks malaria support. One of PMI’s criteria was that other donors, especially GFATM, be present in a country so that PMI’s efforts could be complimentary and make scale up even faster.

bare-shelves-or-inappropriate-drugs-characterize-many-local.jpgNigeria is not without external support. It has some GFATM money, but this covers only half of the 37 states/territories and aims at supporting only a portion of local intervention efforts, not achieving full coverage targets alone. Apparently the GFATM has used Nigeria’s teething problems on these early grants to deny additional funding for the past three Rounds. There is the World Bank Booster program which has been quite slow in rolling out and targets another seven states. Advance plans are underway for DfID to contribute to malaria programming in an undisclosed number of states.

One is also right to ask about the amount of internal funding for malaria is provided by this oil rich country. Still, if the issue is massive scale up of malaria interventions, all partners, national, private, bilateral and international need to increase their support to control malaria in Nigeria.

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