COVID-19: Northerners Nigeria remains high risk, says Gates Foundation

Bill Gates

Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says northern Nigeria remains a high-risk region for the spread of COVID-19 due to its weak primary healthcare system.

Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, Mark Suzman, said this during a conference call with select African journalists including The PUNCH on Thursday.

Responding to a question on how the pandemic could affect northern Nigeria, Suzman said northern Nigeria remains a high-risk region just like any other part of the world with weak healthcare systems.

He said, “We have worked extensively in the North because it is the poorest part of Nigeria. It does have sort of the weakest overall health infrastructure and facilities and that is also why the region has the highest child and maternal mortality rate.

“Those characteristics are shared by several African countries including in the region that is comparable to the challenges in the other parts of the Sahel and other parts of the continent.

“I don’t think there is anything sort of specific you call out other than the risks are obviously greater when you do have a very weak, underlying primary healthcare structure and system in place.”

Meanwhile, the foundation has increased its funding to Africa by $150m.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced an expansion of its funding for the global response to COVID-19. The increase includes an additional $150m of grant funding plus a commitment to leverage the resources of the foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund, which could be deployed to catalyse the rapid procurement of essential medical supplies and help life sciences companies secure financing to produce COVID-19 products.

“In announcing the funding, the foundation called on world leaders to unite in a global response to COVID-19 to ensure equitable access to diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines,” it said in a statement.

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