The Private Sector has an Important Role to Play in Malaria Elimination in Nigeria

A laboratory scientist uses a microscope for a malaria test in a PMI-S supported health facility. Photo credit Oluwatobiloba Akerele/MSH

Two frontline health workers, Elizabeth Adeleke and Biodun Akande, speak about their work in engaging the private sector to support malaria elimination in Nigeria

In Nigeria, over 60% of health care services are delivered through the private sector. Successful malaria control efforts in Nigeria, which account for 25% of global malaria cases, will only be achieved with the successful engagement of private sector actors.

Recognizing this, The U.S. President's Malaria Initiative for States (PMI-S)project has mapped private sector resources, capacities, and constraints for improving malaria testing and treatment services in two endemic states: Akwa Ibom and Oyo.

We asked Elizabeth Adeleke, a public health nurse educator and Program Manager of the Oyo State Malaria Elimination Program (SMEP); and Biodun Akande, Deputy Director, Planning Research and Statistics, Oyo State Ministry of Health, to share their experiences during the private sector mapping exercise, and talk about the significance of private sector actors in the fight against malaria.

[Elizabeth Adeleke, Program Manager, Oyo SMEP. Photo credit: Jay Okpokpolom/MSH]Elizabeth Adeleke, Program Manager, Oyo SMEP. Photo credit: Jay Okpokpolom/MSH

Why is it important to involve private health facilities in eliminating malaria?

Elizabeth: At the Oyo SMEP, we understand that many patients with fever visit private health facilities. This means private health facilities are storehouses of malaria data. However, malaria data from private health facilities are usually missed and not reported appropriately; this needs to be corrected. The SMEP needs to know if people with fever who visit private health facilities are diagnosed and treated according to the national treatment guidelines. Knowing this will enable the SMEP to address gaps by carrying out skills transfer and mentoring sessions to help private health facilities adhere to the guidelines. This approach will give the full picture of the malaria data and situation in Oyo State and improve the malaria services provided in all private and public health facilities. 

Biodun: Data shows that many patients visit private health facilities more than public facilities. This makes it important to improve the knowledge and skills of health workers who work in private hospitals on malaria case management and malaria data quality management. To succeed, we need to involve private health facilities in malaria elimination efforts.

 

What did you learn from the mapping exercise?

Elizabeth: The mapping exercise was important because we identified the exact number and specific locations of private health facilities in each community and local government areas (LGAs) in Oyo State. I learned that private sector organizations are willing to commit funds for malaria elimination, if they are effectively engaged. I discussed the negative impact of malaria on pregnant women and under-five children with two philanthropists and directors in the banking sector who I engaged during the exercise and I received immediate assurances of their commitment to donate funds to the Oyo SMEP if the program sends the detailed request before banks’ budget planning period. In addition, the identification of the 1,163  private health care facilities in Oyo State is a noteworthy outcome of the  mapping exercise, enabling the assessment of the quality of malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services  in the private health facilities.

Biodun: The exercise has helped the State Ministry of Health know the number of private health facilities in the state, their registration status, services they provide, and location within the state. This would be good for planning. The State Ministry of Health can now update the health facilities register where all public and private health facilities in the state are listed. The State Ministry of Health is also working with the Oyo State Geographic Information System departmentto update the location of these health facilities on the map of Oyo State.

 

What benefits do you see coming out of the mapping exercise?

Elizabeth: The SMEP recognizes the importance of bringing private sector actors, health facilities, and organizations on board in the fight against malaria in the state. With support from the American people, Oyo SMEP can work with stakeholders in government and the private sector to achieve malaria-free communities in the state and Nigeria at large.

Biodun: The mapping exercise can help the state government and SMEP allocate malaria commodities, such as malaria rapid diagnostic test kits and artemisinin-based combination therapy, evenly across all health facilities providing malaria services. Also, the State Ministry of Health and SMEP can now identify specific wards, communities, and LGAs in the state where the need for malaria intervention is greater. Recommendations can be made to private sector organizations on specific locations or health facilities to support with funds for improved malaria prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services.

[Biodun Akande, Deputy Director, Planning Research and Statistics, Oyo State Ministry of Health speaking during the interview. Photo credit: Jay Okpokpolom, MSH]Biodun Akande, Deputy Director, Planning Research and Statistics, Oyo State Ministry of Health speaking during the interview. Photo credit: Jay Okpokpolom, MSH

Following the mapping exercise, PMI-S supported the Oyo SMOH to set up a Private Sector Engagement (PSE) committee which is chaired by the SMEP manager. The PSE committee facilitated the development of the PSE strategy which guides activities in alignment with the 2021 Oyo State malaria Annual Operational Plan. The PSE Committee will coordinate state government relations to discuss PSE issues and facilitate interactions with relevant stakeholders to improve malaria elimination efforts in Oyo State.