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FG Strengthens Efforts to Combat Lassa Fever Outbreak

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Lassa Fever Outbreak

By Adedapo Adesanya

The federal government through the Ministry of Environment has strengthened responses to the current Lassa fever outbreak in the country as cases continue to rise.

In a statement signed by the Director of Press in the Ministry of Environment, Saghir el Mohammed, it was stated that the most recent situation report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on January 16, 2022, indicated that the country recorded 96 confirmed cases and 11 deaths from January 3 to January 16, 2022, in 27 local government areas across 11 states.

These states are Bauchi, Edo, Ondo, Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Kogi, Cross River, Ebonyi and Oyo.

The NCDC added that 510 confirmed cases and 102 deaths occurred from January 2021 to January 2, 2022.

The statement revealed that activities on environmental health and sanitation response to the Lassa fever outbreak in the country have been put in place.

Mr Mohammed noted that the Minister of State for the Environment, Ms Sharon Ikeazor, has already embarked on environmental health and sanitation response campaign in 11 states of the federation to ensure improvement in environmental sanitation of premises, abatement of the nuisance, rodent control, food hygiene and safety.

Ms Ikeazor, while noting that Nigeria was currently experiencing an increasing number of reported Lassa fever cases across the country, revealed that before the recent outbreak, the ministry had taken proactive measures to improve the overall sanitation and hygiene situation in the country by establishing sanitation desks in all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to ensure proper monitoring and proactive measures on environmental health issues and concerns.

She said: “This is in addition to the setting up of Environmental Health Surveillance Systems (EHSS) designed to strengthen cooperation between the states and federal government on environmental health and sanitation issues, which would aid information/data gathering and sharing between the federal, state and local governments.

“They are also involved in prevention and containment activities including surveillance/monitoring and reporting of Lassa fever cases and other environmental determinant diseases to the Federal Ministry of Environment. The Sanitation Desks are being replicated in all the 774 LGAs in the country.”

The Minister added that the ministry, over the years, had collaborated with the NCDC, World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholders to carry out activities to prevent and contain the perennial Lassa fever outbreaks in Nigeria.

She stated that the ministry’s environmental health officers, in collaboration with sanitation desks in the states and local government environmental health officers, are currently in the field implementing environmental sanitation response activities in Lassa fever affected states.

“As a ministry, we remain committed to our mandate of pest and vector control in Nigeria. To this end, we are entrenching sustainable programmes focusing on eliminating and reducing breeding avenues for disease vectors which involve fostering collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

“Furthermore, we shall continue to develop the capacity of Environmental Health Practitioners in the federal, state and local government jurisdictions. State Ministries of Environment are hereby enjoined to develop a comprehensive Lassa fever prevention programme that will include rodent infestation survey and deratisation,” Ms Ikeazor stated.

She, however, assured the general public that the ministry remained committed to ensuring that the environment would remain clean, healthy and safe for all.

Lassa fever virus is transmitted by rodents (rats), which could be found in our environment including homes, motor parks, offices and even places of worship. This contributes largely to the risk of spread that occurs in Nigeria and other countries with similar ecological factors.

The Minister, therefore, called on members of the public to keep their surroundings clean, keep food away from rodents, store grains and other foodstuffs in rodent-proof containers and cook all foods thoroughly before consumption.

She also advised residents to block rat hideouts, carry out deracization, put an end to the practice of eating rats, dry farm produce in hygienic manners by refraining from drying crops on the ground where rodents could freely run through; as Lassa fever is often associated with poor sanitary and hygiene practices with cases being recorded all year round.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Health

Stanbic IBTC Pushes for Innovative Financing Solutions for Healthcare

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innovative financing solutions

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The healthcare industry in Nigeria can compete with others in advanced countries if stakeholders work together to create innovative financing solutions.

The Head of Specialised Sectors at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Ms Jane Ike-Okoli, said the market is big enough to attract more investors.

A few days ago, Business Post reported that a global research firm, Agusto & Co, projected that an increased foreign interest would drive growth in Nigeria’s healthcare system, especially through the acquisition and establishment of health facilities in the medium term, helping to bridge the healthcare infrastructure deficit estimated at $82 million.

For Ms Ike-Okoli, this goal can be achieved as Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market. She said the country only needs an effective collaboration among stakeholders to boost the sector.

Speaking during the panel session at the Medic West Africa Conference, Ms Ike-Okoli argued that effective collaboration between the financial industry and healthcare organisations was key to advancing Nigeria’s health sector.

She also mentioned that the sector is yearning for innovative financing solutions to address the nuances of lending to healthcare businesses.

“Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market, and despite this, we have inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which gives rise to weakened health systems.

“It is in response to this that Stanbic IBTC has decided to partner with key players in the healthcare sector to improve access to healthcare finance and provide robust yet flexible funding options for healthcare businesses and providers.

“Our healthcare solutions are tailor-made for players in the sector who need working capital to expand healthcare operations, acquire medical equipment, facilitate medical research, and grow their healthcare businesses.

“One of such solutions is the recently launched unsecured short-term loan with a 12-month tenor, which is aimed at directly supporting providers with funds to improve their offerings and, by extension, grow the healthcare sector in Nigeria,” she stated.

Other panellists featured at the event included Dr Folabi Ogunlesi, Managing Partner Vesta Healthcare; Dr Idorenyin Oladiran, Medical Consultant, Human Resources, MTN Nigeria; Dr Leke Oshunniyi, CEO, Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN) and Professor Akin Abayomi, Commissioner of Health, Lagos State.

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Health

Pharmaceutical Company Introduces Affordable Blood Tonic for Nigerians

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Fejeron Blood Tonic

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The harsh economy in Nigeria caused by high prices of items amid low purchasing power has made it difficult for Nigerians to afford the basic needs of life, especially drugs to replenish their body system.

As a result, the rate of suicide triggered by depression and others has increased. Also, the number of people falling sick in the country has skyrocketed.

But things may soon change for the better as a pharmaceutical firm, Sterling Biopharma Limited, has introduced a new product called Fejeron Blood Tonic into the Nigerian market to support the country’s about 66.8 per cent economically active population.

Fejeron Blood Tonic contains iron, Vitamin B12 and folic acid, all essential components that help to facilitate adequate blood supply and replenishment to the body with vital vitamins while enabling a strong immune system.

“Fejeron Blood Tonic is the latest proof of our commitment to this mission. Despite its premium quality, Fejeron, at the moment, is one of the most affordable blood tonics you will find in the Nigerian pharma market, and this is deliberate. All Nigerians should be able to take care of themselves,” the chief operating officer of Sterling Biopharma, Mr Adebayo Adepoju, said at the unveiling of the product in Lagos on Thursday, September 15.

He said the drug was formulated due to the nature of stress and fatigue that Nigerians encounter daily, which requires that their physical and mental well-being is well supported to function at its best.

“At Sterling Biopharma, we believe that everyone deserves to be able to buy simple prescription drugs without breaking the bank. This is why from the moment we entered the Nigerian market. With our wide range of products, we have made our intentions clear, and that is to make quality pharmaceutical products affordable for all Nigerians,” he stated.

Since its market introduction, Fejeron has quickly become one of the well-sought-after new brands in the pharmaceutical category. The Product Manager, Olumide Ogunremi, linked the warm embrace of the product to its quality and appeal to the needs of Nigerians.

“The quick acceptance of Fejeron Blood Tonic in Nigeria is not surprising. The enthusiasm to try out the product and the return purchases across the biggest pharmaceutical markets in Nigeria validate the quality of the product and timeliness of its emergence.”

On what makes Fejeron Blood Tonic unique, Mr Ogunremi promised that both the young and old would love the taste of Fejeron, adding that extra effort has also been put into ensuring that the product has fewer chances of causing common side effects like metallic after-taste, staining of the teeth; constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and others.

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Health

Agusto Foresees More Foreign Investments in Nigeria’s Healthcare System

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Nigeria's healthcare system

By Adedapo Adesanya

Global research firm, Agusto & Co, has forecast that an increased foreign interest will drive growth in Nigeria’s healthcare system, especially through the acquisition and establishment of health facilities in the medium term.

Agusto said in a report that these foreign investments would help the country bridge the healthcare infrastructure deficit estimated at $82 million.

According to data, Nigeria is largely underfunded in terms of its health system and, as a result, is faced with a significant infrastructure gap.

The industry is currently challenged by outbound medical tourism, deteriorating medical infrastructure, low government budget allocation, and poor compensation for public healthcare workers, all of which have prompted many skilled medical practitioners to relocate overseas in search of better employment opportunities.

In addition, brain drain is also contributing to this as approximately 2,000 doctors leave the country each year, and at least 266 Nigerian doctors were licensed in the United Kingdom between June and July 2022, according to the National Medical Association (NMA).

Nigeria has also not been playing its part, with the health sector receiving only about 4 per cent (N546.98 billion) and 5 per cent (N724.6 billion) of the total budgetary allocation in Nigeria’s 2021 and 2022 budgets. This undershoots the 15 per cent expected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and African  Union (AU).

Agusto noted that the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020 saw an increase in diagnostic facilities and, albeit insufficiently, an increase in public investments in the health sector with efforts from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Despite this, there remains more to be done, especially with the country’s large population facing a high burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, resulting in many people constantly seeking treatment.

Foreign investors have found the Nigerian healthcare system to be an attractive investment opportunity, and in 2021, the healthcare industry attracted around $2.3 million in foreign direct investments (FDI).

For instance, in February 2021, Evercare Group, through its emerging market health fund, established Evercare Hospital Lekki, a 165-bed multispecialty tertiary care facility.

Agusto predicts that the industry’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) will reach N480.6 billion by 2022 from N470.5 billion, based on the country’s high birth rate and the spread of communicable diseases as well as other common ailments such as malaria and respiratory tract infection.

It also expects that a lower rate of outbound medical tourism, as a result of the naira’s continued depreciation, will boost the industry’s contribution to GDP in the medium term.

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