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Cross River, USAID-RTI Joint Effort Makes Remarkable Strides in Eradicating Tropical Diseases

In an extraordinary partnership, the Cross River State Government, in collaboration with USAID’s Act to End Neglected Tropical Diseases/East (Act/East) program and Results for Development (R4D), has achieved a groundbreaking milestone in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the state and across Nigeria. The culmination of this endeavor was shared during a formal dissemination workshop held in Calabar, where prominent stakeholders convened to fortify healthcare and combat NTDs in the region.

The Fund Flow Analysis study, spearheaded by the Lead Researcher, Dr. Arowola Ayoola, and conducted in close collaboration with the Cross River State Ministry of Health Planning Research and Statistics team, signifies a pivotal moment in optimizing resource allocation within the Cross River State health sector. The primary objective is to bolster government ownership of the NTD program and provide crucial insights for evidence-based decision-making in the allocation of funds dedicated to eradicating NTDs.

Dr. Arowola Ayoola, the Lead Researcher, expressed the significance of the study, stating, “Leading this Fund Flow Analysis study in partnership with Cross River State’s Ministry of Health, USAID’s Act East program, and Results for Development has been a great honor. The findings from this study are of paramount importance for guiding evidence-based decisions and efficiently utilizing limited funds in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases.”

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He emphasized that NTDs have had a severe impact on underserved and marginalized communities in Cross River State, highlighting the instrumental role played by the collaboration with USAID’s Act East program in supporting the state’s healthcare efforts.

Mr. Casmir Ubgong, the Director of Planning, Research & Statistics at the State Ministry of Health, expressed his confidence that the study’s findings would lead to more effective resource allocation, greater government involvement in NTD programs, and a renewed commitment to eliminating these diseases from the state. He extended heartfelt gratitude to USAID’s Act East Program and Results for Development (R4D) for their unwavering support and funding, which made this research possible.

Dr. Wangeci Thuo, Chief of Party of USAID’s Act East Programme, added, “USAID’s Act East has been a proud partner of the Cross River State Ministry of Health NTD Department for over six years. Together, we have witnessed ten local government areas successfully halt treatment for Lymphatic filariasis, with another 15 LGAs making substantial progress towards onchocerciasis elimination.”

Thuo underscored the Fund Flow report’s importance in ensuring that once elimination is achieved, these diseases do not return. She pointed out, “The study revealed key findings that shed light on the current funding landscape and resource allocation practices in Cross River State. While NTD programs are included in the state’s strategic health plans, they have not received state government funding in the past three years (2018-2021).”

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The lack of funding for NTD programs in the state was attributed to low prioritization by key stakeholders and heavy reliance on donor funding, with USAID’s Act/East program and Evidence Action being major supporters.

As per the study’s recommendations, there is a call for an increase in the proportion of the state’s health budget allocated to Neglected Tropical Diseases. Additionally, capacity building for NTD personnel and high-level stakeholder engagement and advocacy are deemed essential to prioritize NTDs in the state’s health focus.

The study also advocates for strategic advocacy efforts directed at key stakeholders, including health ministry executives, legislators, and executive council members, to mobilize domestic funding for NTD programs at the state and federal levels.

Participants at the dissemination workshop engaged actively in discussions regarding these recommendations, underscoring the need for collaborative efforts to enhance resource management and achieve improved health outcomes. Cross River State is committed to incorporating the study’s insights into its health policies and strategies, ensuring a sustainable approach to combating NTDs and enhancing the well-being of its communities.

Results for Development (R4D), a critical partner in this pioneering study, commended the collaborative effort and highlighted its potential impact on strengthening the healthcare system.

Edward Owino, a senior program officer from R4D, remarked, “We take pride in offering technical support and research expertise for this vital Fund Flow Analysis study. The results presented during the dissemination workshop hold the potential to revolutionize health prioritization and resource management in Cross River State, paving the way for a more comprehensive and impactful approach to addressing Neglected Tropical Diseases. We commend the dedication of Cross River State and all stakeholders involved in this endeavor, and we eagerly anticipate continuing our support in advancing sustainable health financing.”

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