Paul Obi in Abuja
The United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and the federal government have unveiled a global health security targeting about 27 million people within the Abidjan – Lagos Corridor, made up of Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin Republic.
Declaring open the first annual statutory meeting of the Abidjan – Lagos Corridor Organisation (ALCO) Governing Board, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said stakeholders are primarily concerned in tackling issues of health security, transport, HIV/AIDS and other socioeconomic challenges.
The minister represented by Dr. Segilola Araoye, explained that “Abidjan – Lagos Corridor is about 1,022 kilometres, across the following five countries; Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. Every year, about 27 million passengers including many traders and 140,000 truckers use this road and ports.
“The impact of HIV/AIDS especially in the African region is exacerbated by socio-economic and cultural factors while effecting control has been challenging because of weak health systems,” Adewole stressed.
The minister further stated that “the Abidjan – Lagos Corridor handles 65 per cent of economic activity in the region, thus the importance of establishing and sustaining interventions in the corridor project cannot be over-emphasised.”
UNAIDS Country Representative to Nigeria, Dr. Bilali Camara on his part harped on the need for concerted efforts across the West African region to ensure that health security challenges like HIV/AIDS within the corridor are addressed.
Camara maintained that “what is critical is to ensure that health security, particularly in the area of HIV/AIDS becomes an integral part of the region’s socio-economic policies.”
Also, Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) Prof. John Idoko stated that “key decisions have been taken to improve ALCO management and operations. We will take stock of them and see the way forward. They will be discussed in detail during the work session; but, let me highlight some of them:
“Efforts of recovery of the arrears as at end of May 2016 is 94 per cent. Most of these arrears are paid. This undoubtedly, is a big relief for our Executive Secretariat, and I am appealing to the country members to continue with their efforts.”
Idoko observed that “currently, ALCO has received grants from the World Bank, the Global Fund, USAID, WAHO, UEMOA/AfDB, CDC, and UNEP.
“The activities being implemented are related to HIV/AIDS, EBOLA, Health Security issues, climate change, road infrastructure, road security and safety, free movement of people and goods.
“The partnership and technical support with UNAIDS is still strong. This is the tangible proof that ALCO is gaining more and more confidence from our development partners,” the NACA DG stated.
Participants from Federal Ministries of Transport, Foreign Affairs, ECOWAS, the World Bank, the Nigerian Customs Service and others also attended the seminar.