EVIDENTLY, the malaria scourge in Africa remains one of the greatest challenges to successive governments in the continent. Malaria is a major cause of the high mortality rates in Africa, and Nigeria has been identified as one of the 'high risk' countries in the continent. Malaria has equally led to low productivity with its backlash on the nation's economic growth.Still, efforts by successive governments in Nigeria to tackle the scourge has been grossly inadequate due to paucity of funds or lack of political will to confront the monster.However, aware of the challenges many developing nations face in terms of lean resources, the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, TB and Malaria which came on board in 2002, has assumed the role of a major global player in the war against these deadly diseases.It is in consonance with this role that the Global Fund recently in Abuja signed a Grant Agreements worth $225 million with the Federal Government. The grant is essentially to support programmes that will prevent and treat malaria in Nigeria since the Global Fund has identified Nigeria as one of the 'high impact' countries that are now receiving special attention. The two grant agreements in Nigeria include an additional $50 million for bed nets, approved exceptionally and to contribute to universal coverage and linked to additional commitments by the Nigerian government.Both grants contribute to achieving nationwide coverage of bed nets through mass campaigns and routine distribution, and increased access to medicine and diagnostic tests critical in saving lives at the onset of malaria. The bed nets are treated with insecticides, which only protects children and adults sleeping within, but also reduces the spread of the disease by eliminating mosquitoes.Collaborating with Global Fund in the war against malaria is Friends Africa, a non-governmental organization, which was inaugurated in February 2007 in Kigali, Rwanda has as its vision, an African continent free from AIDS, TB and Malaria.It has been pursuing this vision through mobilizing political and financial support from African governments, private sector and civil society for the purpose of bringing about sustainable and effective methods of addressing AIDs, TB and Malaria in Africa with emphasis on the Global Fund '- a key funding mechanism in the fight.Present at the signing ceremony were Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; Deputy Executive Director of the Global Fund, Debrework Zewdie; Chairman, Friends Africa, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; members of the Country Coordinating Mechanism, among others.Speaking at the event, Debrework Zewdie said'today is an important day, both for the people of Nigeria and the Global Fund as we expand our joint efforts to fight malaria and further strengthen our long standing partnership.The two grants we are signing today will bring another $225 million to fighting malaria ' they reflect the tremendous progress that has been made against malaria, and the need for much more to be done to reduce child mortality and reaching health MDGs.She added that skeptics had been proved wrong that Nigeria was too complex and too big to achieve any meaningful progress in fighting malaria, but collaborative efforts are starting to pay off'The special thing about these grants is that the Global Fund Board approved the full funding amount available, and in what was to my knowledge the first time ever the Board allowed us to include an additional $50 million, in this case for bed nets, upon further funding commitment by the Government of Nigeria.At the Global Fund, we are shifting the way we manage grants, to be more strategic, so we can achieve more impact with the resources that are available. Nigeria is one of our 20 High Impact countries, which receives special attention, while we strive for more effective grant management. Since its first grant from the Global Fund in 2005, Nigeria has been awarded grants worth US$ 980 million.'Chukwu said 'As you know, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) has been supporting the implementation of interventions targeted at reducing the burdens of the three diseases. The support for the Global Fund has invariably resulted in the scaling up of interventions against these three diseases and with the solid collaboration from the Nigerian government, we are beginning to see substantial reductions in the morbidity and mortality of these scourges.'He added:'I am pleased to say that these concerted efforts galvanized by the National Malaria Control Programmes and in collaboration with partners, multilateral and bilateral agencies as well as the indigenous organizations have halted and begun reversal of the large number of morbidities and mortalities previously unleashed by this deadly scourge and which significantly contribute to our poor health indices.'The minister recalled that this current Round 8 Malaria grant began three years ago with a bicameral approach, targeting the public and private health sector.'Accordingly, three principal recipients: Yakubu Gowon Centre for National Unity and International Cooperation, National Malaria Control Programme and the Society for Family Health were engaged in the implementation of the first phase of the grant, which was operationised in the 36 states and FCT. According to him, 'over 63 million long-lasting insecticidal nets are to be distributed as part of the catch-up phase and the grant is contributing about 31 million of those nets. The minister explained that the current phase 2 grant worth $167 million will be implemented in 36 states, including the FCT and will provide these services through the public and private sectors.Speaking in the same vein, the Board Chairman, Friends of the Global Fund Africa (Friends Africa), a leading organization in the war against the deadly diseases in Africa, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, thanked the Global Fund for the gesture to Nigeria.He added: 'Friends Africa has been at the forefront of advocating increased funding and support for Global Fund supported programmes in Nigeria and Africa 'This malaria grant we are signing today, further presents to us another opportunity to save more lives and ensure that malaria deaths in Nigeria are reduced to the barest minimum.'He urged all partners involved in the implementation of the grant to work together to ensure the targets of the grant are achieved. Click here to read full news..