Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Following the decline in funding by international donor agencies, the need to adopt new strategies for funding of activities to check transmission and spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria has been stressed.
This was the highpoint of the Media/Legislative Roundtable organised by Koyenum Immalah Foundation (KIF) held recently in Asaba, Delta State.
The forum, which focused on efforts at the executive and legislative levels to midwife into reality the law transforming the Delta State Committee on HIV/AIDS (DELSACA) into a full-fledged agency, was dismayed by the sharp decline in the sectoral budgetary allocations for combating HIV/AIDS in Delta State from approved figure of N250 million in 2015 to N110 million in proposed figure for 2016.
Participants while expressing the urgent need to sustain the gains of the DELSACA which saw the rate of HIV prevalence in the state dip from 5.8 per cent to 3.5 per cent to its present rate of about 0.7 per cent in a few years, described the drop in budgetary allocation for girl-child education from N12 million in 2015 to a paltry N500 (five hundred thousand naira) in the 2016 estimates as grossly inadequate.
“There is no gain-saying for the fact that there is an urgent need to grant DELSACA an agency status. As it is, the current situation is that DELSACA is being shortchanged. It cannot access the very many opportunities which several international organisations and donor agencies offer for the fight against HIV/AIDS”, the KIF Project Manager, Miss Hope Nwadishi, pointed out while presenting an analysis on the budgetary provision for the programme in Delta State.
The forum however expressed optimism that the executive bill before the Delta State House of Assembly would be passed and duly signed into law in the next few weeks since it has reached the crucial stage with its consideration at the committee of the whole House last week.
Executive Director of KIF, Faith Nwadishi, stressed the need for a private public partnership (PPP) approach to getting around the new funding challenge as several donor agencies over the last couple of years had scaled down their support for HIV/AIDS programme in the country.
A joint committee made up of representatives of the state Women Affairs and Youth Ministry, the state legislature, the media in the state as well as technical experts from civil society organisations (CSOs) was constituted during the roundtable.
Legal aide of Dr. Alphonsus Ojo, representing Ukwani in the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon Hessington Okolo, assured that the passage of the agency bill would not be long in coming as the lawmakers were as passionate about it as the governor who sent the bill.
In the same vein, the Senior Special Adviser to the Delta Governor on Child Rights Advocacy, Hon Bridget Anyafulu, said the people of the state could be rest assured that the bill would be duly signed into law as soon as the legislature passed it as it emanated from Governor Okowa who is very conversant with everything about HIV/AIDS.
At a similar forum at Asaba in August 2015, also put together by the KIF, which is a non-governmental organisation, it was observed that Delta State was the only state in Nigeria whose committee on HIV/AIDS was first to transform into an agency.
However, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa early this year in a move to address the situation, promptly sent an executive bill for a law establishing the state HIV/AIDS Agency, a status that would enable the body partner formally with numerous national, regional and international organisations on the control of the scourge which has no boundaries.
Meanwhile, the nine partners of DELSACA that have been working on the entire HIV/AIDS project are expected to be present at a special forum to be hosted soon by KIF to launch the reviewed handbook on HIV/AIDS.
The DESACA partners would review their respective progress of work with DELSACA alongside the handbook launch, in peer review fashion.