By Justina Auta
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) has signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the U.S. Agency For International Development (USAID) to make its operational base, Bonny Island in Rivers malaria-free.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the MoU was co-signed by NLNG’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr Tony Attah and the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth-Leonard on Tuesday in Abuja.
The MoU also included a partnership between NLNG and the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) regarding support to the HIV/AIDS Surge Project.
In his remarks, Attah said NLNG commenced the Bonny Malaria Elimination Project (BNYMEP) in January 2019 as part of its vision to transform Bonny Island into a tourist and economic hub in the West African region.
According to him, a malaria-free zone is critical in the quest toward attracting investments to the Island, which will positively impact on the socio-economic well-being of residents.
He said “we are ready to put Bonny Island on the map as one the first malaria-free communities in Nigeria and a reference point in the global eradication of the disease.
“Malaria has impacted negatively on healthcare in Nigeria and it is time to change the narrative. It is time to free ourselves of the economic burden that this scourge has imposed on us for years.”
He added that the elimination of malaria would also aide in tackling other issues, as well as the attainment of the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs).
Attah said the NLNG prioritised the socio-economic well-being of Bonny Kingdom, hence the need to eradicate malaria, given the peculiar disposition of the Island as a wetland in the rainforest, which made malaria prevalent.
“Therefore, it is imperative that Nigeria LNG champions this ambition to secure a malaria-free community in support of our vision of making Bonny a tourist haven that is comparable to Dubai”, the managing director said.
The U.S. ambassador to Nigeria said reducing the burden of malaria and HIV/AIDS were within the goals of the United States, which aligned with the Nigerian government’s strategic goals in health.
According to her, report shows that malaria kills more than 300,000 Nigerian children under the age of five years annually, even though it is a preventable, treatable and curable disease.
She said “both malaria and HIV have negative impacts on quality of life and economic advancement, reducing productivity and profit through loss of person-hours.
“Their impact on maternal and child health is well understood, but the efforts required to reduce prevalence has not been well documented.”
While commending the efforts of the NLNG in its social responsibility toward improving the health of the people, she said the partnership would help in eliminating malaria in the island.
The Paramount Ruler of Bonny Kingdom, Dr Edward Asamini, said malaria constituted a risk not just to residents, but to visitors as well due to the thick vegetation in the area.
Asamini, who was represented by Dr Charles Jumbo, who is in charge of Health issues in the kingdom, said the project showed the commitment of the Federal Government, NLNG and the U.S. toward the health of the community. (NAN)