By Michael Olugbode
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) has signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with two United States Government development agencies to make Bonny Island malaria-free and achieve HIV epidemic control.
NLNG, a global producer of liquefied natural gas, is based on the island just off the Atlantic coast in Rivers State.
A statement issued by the US Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, Public Affairs Section, said under the MOU, the United States, through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), would provide the technical assistance to the NLNG-led Bonny Island Malaria Elimination Project. “The partnership seeks to bring malaria deaths to zero in the community of 300,000 people, and make the island Nigeria’s first malaria-free zone,” the statement said.
Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, represented the United States at a signing ceremony yesterday in Abuja, while NLNG was represented by its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tony Attah.
In his remarks, Attah said: “We are ready to put Bonny Island on the map as one of the first malaria-free communities in Nigeria and a reference point in the global eradication of the disease.
“Malaria has negatively impacted health in Nigeria, so it is time to change the narrative and be free from the economic burden of this scourge, so that our resources can be used to tackle other issues. We hope to set a precedent for the private sector in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which align with our vision of helping to build a better Nigeria.”
Administered by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), PMI works to reduce malaria-related mortality by 50 percent across 24 developing countries through a rapid scale-up of proven and effective malaria prevention and treatment measures. Two PMI activities are already in operation on Bonny Island.
The MOU also includes a partnership between NLNG and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) regarding support to the HIV/AIDS Surge Project, which focuses on control of HIV on Bonny Island.
This partnership will improve HIV case finding, access to antiretroviral treatment, diagnostic, and preventive services for those affected by HIV on the island. The Surge Project is coordinated by the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria in Rivers State.
The US ambassador said: “Reducing the burden of malaria and HIV/AIDS on Bonny Island are goals now within our reach,” adding that: “This partnership moves us closer to achieving those goals. I commend the efforts of NLNG to meet its social responsibility in helping the economic climate of Bonny Island by improving the health of its residents.”