You can’t solve all your problems with international donors, EU tells Nigeria

*** Says it ended polio intervention support with mix feelings

The European Union (EU) has hinted that it is not possible to solve all the problems in Nigeria with international donors cooperation.

It said the country is just too big and the problem is enormous; while the population is growing at the same time.

The Head of European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, who made this known, however, disclosed that the EU ended its Technical Assistance to the European Union Support to Immunisation Governance in Nigeria (EU-SIGN) Project with mix feelings.

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The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) had announced last week that the Technical Assistance to the European Union Support to Immunisation Governance in Nigeria (EU-SIGN) Project has come to successful completion.

The European Union €63.5 million funded eight-year project was implemented between 2011 and 2019 by the NPHCDA in the twenty-three states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Ebonyi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara and the Federal Capital Territory.

However, in an interview with Tribune Online, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen said the EU is ending the project in Nigeria with mix feelings, saying that despite the success of the programme, too many children are still in very difficult health conditions.

He also pointed out that there is still a long way to go with the rate of immunization, especially in the North, while the number of children who die yearly due to preventable diseases is still alarming, as it is on the high side.

He said: “We are doing it with mixed feelings in the sense that only recently, we could have that marvellous celebration of three years without new cases of polio in Nigeria.

“That is a wonderful achievement and it is only possible due to the collaboration of a number of supports; of course from the Federal Government, state governments and also the civil societies and a number of international Organisation including WHO.”

He added: “But mix feelings nevertheless because when we look at the numbers, we see that far too many children still are in very difficult health conditions and the affected alarming figure from UNICEF that one million children below the age of five years old in Nigeria die every year. That is really an alarming figure.

“Looking at immunization rate throughout the country, and in the North in general, and the North West in particular, we know that there is still a long way to go.”

“So, today is a moment of reflection. It is a moment to look at what we have done well, what we have achieved but also what can be done better.”

On their possible future engagement in Nigeria, Ambassador Karlsen, said: “EU is currently at a phase where we are defining our priorities for the coming years, not only in Nigeria but throughout the world. This is coming at a very pertinent time in being able to provide inputs and recommendations into that decision of what we will support in the future.

“The ambition of the Nigerian Government to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years is very valuable and an important ambition. We believe in the need of an integrated approach, an approach where of course a basic socio service, health and education, in particular, must be at the forefront ; but combine those with investment in human capital, making sure that people can live in peace and stability and seeing opportunities in terms of jobs for youths in particular.

“So, when we look at defining our priorities for the future, this is something that we will take into consideration; and as always, in support of Nigerian initiatives, Nigerian policies, Nigerian visions because it is not possible to solve all the problems in Nigeria with international donors cooperation. It is just too big and the population is growing at the same time.

“But what we can do with political dialogue, through training relations and through development cooperation is supporting those long term policies that can make sure that when we stand here again in a few years time, we will not have the same daunting challenges ahead of us in terms of providing health care, education and other basic services for the wonderful population of Nigeria.”

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