Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blair in Nigeria to urge fight against malaria

Former British prime minister Tony Blair on Saturday called for concerted efforts to combat malaria in Nigeria which accounts for a quarter of the one million malaria deaths annually in Africa.

"Malaria has no barrier and does not discriminate. When we think of malaria we think particularly of children and women, and how to prevent it becomes particularly imperative," Blair said at a training workshop sponsored by his Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Some 75 million Nigerians, or half of the population, get infected with malaria at least once a year while children under the age of five (around 24 million) suffer up to four bouts each year.

The workshop held in Nigeria's administrative capital Abuja focused on the use of bed nets to help prevent contracting malaria which is a mosquito-borne disease.

The Nigerian government plans to roll out 62 million bed nets in a country where nearly 300,000 people succumb to malaria each year.

Around 97 percent of the 150 million Nigerians are at risk of infection, says Roll Back Malaria, a global initiative aiming to eradicate the disease.

The British premier from 1997 to 2007 lauded Africa's largest Muslim and Christian alliance, the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association (NIFAA), for its role in combating malaria.

"This model of inter-faith action can be readily adopted to join the state and public sector in other developing countries if government and funders are willing to provide external support to make this a reality," said Blair

"That is at the heart of my own faith foundation. When faith communities collaborate and work together for justice and human development there is a pay-off. That is, things get done and then respect and understanding between them grows," he said.

Blair who arrived in Nigeria on Friday at the start a west African tour that will also take him to Liberia and Sierra Leone, will attend an award ceremony in Abuja on Sunday, organised by privately owned newspaper This Day.


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