Remarks by Ambassador James F. Entwistle – World Malaria Day/World Intellectual Property Day Commemoration (April 24, 2015)

Abuja | April 24, 2015

(as prepared for delivery)

All protocols observed. Ladies and Gentlemen, honored guests: good morning. Thank you for coming to this important event.

Tomorrow, April 25, people across the globe take part in a wide range of activities to mark World Malaria Day.  Of course, for many Nigerians, every day is malaria day—a day to keep up the fight against this killer disease.

Sunday, April 26, marks the 15th annual World Intellectual Property Day, as well as the 45th anniversary of the entry into force of the convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.  Intellectual property rights protect and encourage innovation and creativity, which are key factors in creating new jobs and growing exports.

Aside from the fact that these two days fall next to each other on the calendar, it may not be immediately clear that they have anything in common.  Nevertheless, as we have already heard today, they have at least one very important thing in common, and that is the large and growing problem of counterfeit malaria medicines.

Globally, more than 1,000 children still die from malaria every day.  In Nigeria, malaria remains widespread, and with transmission throughout the year, most of the population is at risk of being infected.  Malaria is a leading cause of death in children under five years of age and contributes to the death of pregnant women.  It also impacts the economy by reducing school attendance and lowering worker productivity, in addition to the significant out-of-pocket spending on treatment by households.

Fighting malaria not only saves lives, but also directly supports the achievement of broader development goals.  That is why malaria prevention and control remain a major U.S. foreign assistance objective.  Here in Nigeria, U.S. government funding for malaria has consistently increased from over $60 million to $75 million in the last four years.

In addition to our partnership against malaria, the United States and Nigeria are working together to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment, improve the quality of family planning and reproductive health services, and expand access to immunization for children and women.  Nigeria also has one of the largest tuberculosis burdens in Africa, and we are working closely with our Nigerian partners to address that worsening problem.  All combined, the U.S. government’s investment in health in Nigeria is our largest globally.

The United States government, through the President’s Malaria Initiative, is supporting Nigeria’s work to meet its malaria goals.  The U.S. government’s contributions, together with those of other partners, have led to dramatic improvements in the coverage of malaria control interventions in Nigeria.  More people now own insecticide-treated nets.  More communities have access to health care services that can promptly diagnose and treat confirmed malaria cases.  More pregnant women have access to medicines to prevent malaria.

This work is making a difference.  The number of global malaria cases decreased from approximately 174 million to 163 million between 2000 and 2013.  During the same period, the estimated malaria death rate for children under five decreased by 58 percent in Africa.  Here in Nigeria, although malaria remains a major cause of death among young children, there have been significant reductions over the past five years in the rate of deaths of children under the age of five.  While multiple factors are undoubtedly influencing this decline, growing evidence suggests that malaria prevention and treatment are playing a major role in unprecedented reductions.

Despite so many gains, the widespread prevalence of counterfeit, substandard medicines is contributing to the alarmingly high number of malaria deaths and costs of health care in Nigeria.  There is also a broader economic cost of counterfeit medicines: they suppress the ability of Nigeria’s own domestic pharmaceutical industry to develop, innovate, and create jobs.  Counterfeit medicines divert income away from legitimate companies that have invested in the research, development, patent, and trademark of effective medicines, making it more difficult for those legitimate companies to operate.

The availability of effective, quality medicines is the heart of public health interventions.  The U.S. government played a major role in the recent International Organization for Standardization accreditation of the National Drug Agency’s Central Drug Quality Control Laboratory in Lagos.  The accreditation is important because it supports not only Nigeria’s own pharmaceutical industry, but it will also enable Nigeria to monitor the quality of imported products and help ensure that only safe, quality medicines are distributed to Nigerians.

I would like to recognize the efforts of our Nigerian government counterparts in providing leadership, coordination, and partnership to improve the health status of Nigerians, and encourage even more to be done.

It is imperative not to allow the progress achieved by these investments to decline in the coming years.  This is everyone’s responsibility. This calls for the Nigerian government to provide the necessary funding and leadership to scale-up and maintain these interventions.  The beneficiaries have the responsibility to access and appropriately use these interventions by sleeping under treated nets, testing every fever, and using recommended medicines.  Pregnant women should demand and use recommended malaria services.  The people of Nigeria need to be vigilant in reporting incidents of stolen or counterfeit medicines to relevant authorities.  The U.S. government will continue to provide support to this key development objective.

Today, on behalf of the U.S. government, I would like to announce the launch of the “Make a Difference” hotline and reward program.  We are offering up to $10,000—approximately two million naira—to anyone who reports information concerning the illegal distribution of stolen or falsified anti-malaria medication in Nigeria.

The “Make a Difference” program will also inform the public about the dangers of using falsified and stolen medications, including how to avoid such medicines.  Nigerians can make a difference in their communities by reporting individuals involved in the manufacturing, distribution, or sale of these illicit and dangerous products.

If you have information on these networks, please call the toll free hotline at 0708-060-1816.  Or, you can send an email to MADMalariaHotline@usaid.gov. All information will be kept confidential, but if you want to collect a reward, we will need to know who you are.

Nigeria is a regional leader in many ways, and can be a leader in malaria control and elimination, as well as in intellectual property and rights protection.  By working together, we can put an end to criminal acts that cause needless suffering and death, and ensure that Nigerians consume only safe and legitimate pharmaceuticals.  These efforts will strengthen both individuals and communities across Nigeria.

Thank you.