By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
As part of a proactive approach to support the growth of the nation’s healthcare sector, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has financed 82 projects valued at N85.89 billion under its Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme (HSRDIS).
The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele who disclosed at the Award of Grants to some successful applicants in Abuja on Tuesday, said the financed projects comprised 26 pharmaceuticals and 56 medicals across the country.
He explained that from over 286 proposals from the general public, 68 proposals have so far been evaluated, out of which five proposals with significant merits valued at N253.54 million were recommended by the committee of experts for financing, expressing optimism that some of the recommended proposals have the potential to enable the development of the Nigerian vaccine for COVID-19.
Commending the committee for doing a remarkable work in the selection process, Emefiele also congratulated the recipients of the award for their efforts in working to develop solutions to some of the nation’s healthcare challenges stressing that “most of our recipients are from the academia, a sector that had lacked funding for research”.
The Governor who reiterated that the review of proposals is still ongoing, urged the committee to provide recommendations for additional award of grants in due course, even as he emphasized the need “for us to move from a consumer-based economy to a more productive economy.
” I will like to urge the recipients of these awards to judiciously utilize the opportunity offered to them by the CBN and strive to achieve the purposes of their research by ensuring that their projects meet the set targets, aims and objectives of supporting the development of vaccines and drugs in Nigeria.
“It is my strong belief that this will offer the average Nigerian access to much needed vaccines and drugs for not just COVID-19, but other communicable or non-communicable diseases. The CBN is committed to the successful implementation of the Scheme, hence we will ensure the review and evaluation of subsequent applications”, he assured.
The Governor who noted that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecendented effect on the global economy, ” highlighted a truth many of us have always known that a healthy and safe workforce is critical for continued economic growth as well as the stability of our financial system”.
He said “we all witnessed how a public health emergency brought strong economies and developed nations to their knees. In Nigeria, it exposed the fragility of our healthcare system and the urgent need to look inward and build a more robust and sustainable healthcare system.
“The response by some advanced and developing countries also reflected the significant advancements that have occurred in the health sector in those countries. Their investments in R&D enabled health institutions to develop a rapid response to the corona virus, with the deployment of vaccines in record time.
“These measures have helped to increase the availability of vaccines in developed countries. On the other side, developing nations have had to contend with limited supply of vaccines for their citizens. It’s therefore imperative that we find ways to encourage research and innovation in the treatment of health conditions for our citizens in Nigeria.
“As you may be aware, the HSRDIS was introduced with the release of the implementation guidelines and subsequent inauguration of the Scheme’s Body of Experts (BoE) in July 2020. The Scheme, which was part of the Bank’s policy response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, aimed at prompting intense research and development (R&D) activities towards developing vaccines and drugs against the spread of other communicable and non-communicable diseases.
“Under the HSRDIS, grants are provided to researchers and healthcare institutions for the development of vaccines, drugs and herbal medicines, which could help curtail the spread of COVID-19 and any other communicable or non-communicable diseases.
He pointed out that “the grant awards is a testimony to the significant role research and development in healthcare could play in supporting economic growth, particularly as growth is highly dependent on a strong and healthy workforce. Meeting our need for a strong and healthy workforce with better safety profiles is a task that can only be addressed through a healthcare sector that provides for significant investments in Research and Development.
“A vibrant and innovative health care system is also vital for our national security; we all witnessed how a number of countries and territories adopted stringent and immediate export restrictions on critical medical supplies and drugs that were specifically meant to help countries respond to the spread of the virus”.