By Adedapo Adesanya An opportunity has opened for private and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) health providers in Nigeria to access credit facility to expand their operations. The loan, created through the Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative, is worth $30 million and it is for healthcare providers in Nigeria and four other high malaria burden African countries. It will specifically support healthcare providers in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to continue offering essential health services, including malaria treatments, to more than five million Africans, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility was created by the Health Finance Coalition, a group of leading philanthropies, investors, donors and technical partners focused on mobilising significant private investment to achieve transformative healthcare impact in Africa. \u201cPrivate sector healthcare providers deliver nearly 50 per cent of all healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, including life-saving interventions such as early malaria diagnosis and treatment, ante-natal care and routine vaccinations. \u201cIf left unaddressed, these vital health needs could overwhelm already overburdened health systems and add to the loss of life during the pandemic. \u201cProjections in 2020, for example, estimated that moderate disruptions in treatment-seeking could lead to as many as 100,000 additional malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. \u201cAs countries have shut down sectors of their economies and asked citizens to remain at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, all health providers have seen a decrease in demand for services. \u201cFor private healthcare providers, this also means decreased revenues, putting them at risk of closing during a time when access to care is already a challenge," a statement by the Global Health Strategies said on Monday. According to the statement, of the five million patients that the loan facility can impact, almost three million are low-income patients, and approximately 2.4 million are women and 1.4 million are children, who are disproportionately at risk of malaria and other infectious diseases. \u201cThe loan facility will be managed by Malaria No More and loans will be administered through the Medical Credit Fund (MCF), a non-profit health investment fund. \u201cLoans are expected to average $17,000 per provider to help stabilise operations, buy essential medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, and finance small-scale construction to protect patients from COVID-19 infection. \u201cMCF\u2019s partner organisation, SafeCare, in collaboration with PMI, will provide training materials to facilities on how to continue providing routine services safely during the pandemic," it said. Mr Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More, said: \u201cThis facility is one of the first solutions of its kind to address the twin health and economic crises facing the private health sector in Africa due to COVID-19. \u201cWe hope it will spark a broader response using creative finance solutions to save lives from malaria and address Africa\u2019s most urgent health needs," he is quoted as saying. According to Mr Ray Chambers, WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Health Financing and Chair, the MCJ Amelior Foundation said: \u201cWith COVID-19 putting tremendous financial pressure on health budgets across Africa. \u201cWe need creative financing solutions to help governments achieve their ambitious health goals. "The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative, which supports private health providers through a blend of grants and return-seeking capital, is a leading example. I hope to see strategies such as this one scaled up in the months to come,\u2019\u2019 he said. The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative is one of the first initiatives to address the economic crunch that the private health sector in Africa is facing due to COVID-19. A catalytic $700,000 investment by the U.S. President\u2019s Malaria Initiative (PMI) enables a $17.7 million loan guarantee from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and $1.5 million in philanthropic funding from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, and the MCJ Amelior Foundation. Together, this effort unlocks more than $30 million in loans to SME health providers. Additional support comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development\u2019s Center for Innovation and Impact (CII).