Rebecca Ejifoma

The United States of America has assured Nigeria of its unwavering commitment to increase the country’s access to HIV/AIDS and malaria testing and treatment, improving the quality of family planning and reproductive health services, as well as expanding access to immunisation for children and women.

The Deputy Chief of Mission, Maria E. Brewer, said this at the flagging off of activities and inauguration of the Joint West African Research Group in Ikeja, Lagos.

She noted that the US was deeply committed to working with Nigeria for many years to come. “One of the areas in which we continue to work very closely together is improving the health of the Nigerian people.”

Brewer noted: “The US Embassy’s Walter Reed Programme, supported through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, helps save the lives of those suffering from HIV. PEPFAR is a historic commitment — the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally — and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the globe.

“For 12 years, the US Department of Defence and the Nigerian Ministry of Defence have worked together to enhance HIV prevention, care, and treatment. This partnership has not only endured, but has also grown into a model for the way our military can work together effectively.

“The work this partnership does—fighting the spread of infectious diseases throughout Nigeria—is as important today as it was 12 years ago. It is my honour to be here today to congratulate you on your many accomplishments and wish you well as you begin another 12 years of work,” she noted.

According to her, the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa revealed both great potential and deep deficiencies within the mechanisms for rapid medical response to public health emergencies.

“While global coordination resulted in controlling this epidemic, greater investment in public health infrastructure and surveillance systems could have yielded better preparation and response to the outbreak.

“A significant amount has been awarded to the US Military HIV Research Programme at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and to the Naval Medical Research Centre. This funding supports laboratory and clinical capacity building through military-to-military collaborations and academia,” she disclosed.

Meanwhile, when asked how effective the programme had been since the 12 years partnership, the Corp Commander, Medical, Major General Abimbola Amusu, explained: “I think this programme has been able to address tuberculosis and improve the access to it. The resurgence of tuberculosis was due to the increase in the cases of HIV/AIDS.”

She, therefore, urged African leaders to pay more attention to health as well as commit more funds into healthcare. “They shouldn’t think health is just any other field. These are what they should do to stop the emergence of epidemic in their country.”

Present at the inauguration were: the U.S. Embassy Country Director for Walter Reed Programme-Nigeria, Mr. Robert Nelson and the US Consul General, Francis John Bray alongside other Nigerian military personnel.