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Nigerian scientists fail to win FG’s N36m prize for COVID-19, Lassa Fever cure

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Nigerian scientists and researchers have been unable to claim the N36 million reward offered by the Federal Government for discovering cures for COVID-19 and Lassa Fever, according to checks by DAILY POST. The prize, announced on February 13, 2020, by the then Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, aimed to motivate scientists to find cures for the mentioned diseases. However, as of November 21, 2023, no one has successfully claimed the cash prize.

Dr. Onu had initially challenged Nigerian scientists to find cures for coronavirus and Lassa fever, pledging the N36 million reward for successful discoveries. Despite claims from some individuals and institutions asserting they had found a cure for COVID-19, a committee was set up in May 2020 to review these claims, and the matter seemingly faded away.

The most notable attempt was made by Prof. Maurice Iwu, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, who presented a potential cure for COVID-19 in March 2020. However, the cash prize remained unclaimed, and Iwu’s efforts did not lead to the development of a cure for COVID-19.

With the departure of the former minister and the change in administration, the N36 million cash prize appears to have been forgotten. The current director of press and public relations in the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology expressed unawareness of the prize, signaling a lack of continuity in addressing the matter.

Prof. Mosto Onuoha, the President of the Nigerian Academy of Science at the time of the prize announcement, indicated that the issue was inconclusive. He mentioned a lack of clarity in the conceptualization of the cash prize, suggesting that there may not have been a well-defined process for submissions and evaluation.

In conclusion, three years after the announcement, the N36 million cash prize for discovering cures for COVID-19 and Lassa Fever remains unclaimed and seemingly forgotten, raising questions about the transparency and effectiveness of the incentive program.

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Ekiti govt prepares for vaccination of girl child against cervical cancer

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As part of measures to prevent the scourge of cervical cancer in Ekiti State, the government is set to begin the vaccination of female children beginning from May this year.

To this end, a technical working group has been inaugurated to begin the necessary planning that would make the vaccination a success.

Inaugurating the group in Ado Ekiti, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Oyebanji Filani, read out the terms and conditions which include “Mapping all relevant HPV stakeholders (EPI and Non-EPI), Provide coordination, management, and planning for all stakeholders meeting through the introduction, monitor and track the release of funding for the HPV rollout at the state, review the budget requirements for the pre-introduction and introduction activities, and monitor the timely disbursement of these funds to the lowest level.

Others are to provide overall guidance in the smooth running of the operations rooms during the introduction of the HPV vaccine, which includes early identification and proffer solutions to mitigate challenges during the HPVV introduction process. The team may make use of electronic communications through a group email to facilitate information sharing among all members between formal meetings.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Mrs. Olusola Gbenga-Igotun, the commissioner said the vaccine had been proven to be healthy and safe, urging parents to allow their children to take the vaccine.

He said the vaccine would be given to female children between the ages of nine and fourteen, while other age groups would be captured later.

Other stakeholders who spoke on the occasion, including clerics, market women, and CSOs, commended the government for the proper planning ahead of the vaccination and urged members of the public to embrace it.

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Stakeholders worry as TB scourge fails to abate in Nigeria

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Since 2017, when the World Health Organization (WHO) initially published a report revealing that 18 Nigerians succumb to Tuberculosis (TB) every hour, efforts have been made to address the issue. Some Nigerians believe the reported figures are underestimated, suggesting the actual number may be higher, while others suspect the figures were inflated to attract international donor funding.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has implemented measures to combat TB, but the results have been limited. A recent report by the National Tuberculosis, Buruli Ulcer, and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) reiterates that more than 18 Nigerians still die every hour from TB. Mrs. Itohowo Uko, Deputy Director at NTBLCP, emphasized the severity of TB, an airborne infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.

According to Uko, the 2017 global report from the WHO identified Nigeria among the 14 countries with a high burden of TB. The country recorded 104,940 TB patients in 2017, constituting approximately 20% of the known cases. Despite efforts, the death toll remains alarming, with 18 Nigerians perishing hourly from TB.

Dr. Cynthia Onwuteaka of KNCV Nigeria highlighted the significance of World Tuberculosis Day in March 2023, calling TB the world’s second deadliest disease after COVID-19. The report indicates a prevalence rate of 219 cases per 100,000 persons in Nigeria, translating to an estimated 500,000 individuals affected annually.

Despite declining TB cases and deaths from 2017 to 2021, the reported figure of 18 Nigerians dying every hour has persisted. Stakeholders, including Lagos State Governor’s wife, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, advocate for increased awareness and free TB testing and treatment.

However, some medical professionals, like Dr. Ifeanyi Ohabuenyi, question the authenticity of the reported figures. Ohabuenyi suggests that data might be exaggerated to secure international funding, asserting that TB is declining and no longer prevalent. He emphasizes the need for accurate reporting to ensure continued financial support.

In summary, the fight against TB in Nigeria faces challenges, including skepticism about reported figures, concerns about funding dependency, and ongoing efforts to raise awareness and provide accessible testing and treatment.

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China records nearly 13,000 COVID deaths in seven days

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China reported nearly 13,000 Covid-related deaths in hospitals between January 13 and 19, after a top health official said the vast majority of the population has already been infected by the virus.

China, a week earlier, said nearly 60,000 people had died with Covid in hospitals as of January 12, but there has been widespread scepticism over official data since Beijing abruptly axed anti-virus controls last month.

China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement on Saturday that 681 hospitalised patients had died of respiratory failure caused by coronavirus infection, and 11,977 had died of other diseases combined with an infection over the period.

Airfinity, an independent forecasting firm, has estimated daily Covid deaths in China will peak at around 36,000 over the Lunar New Year holiday.

The firm also estimated that more than 600,000 people have died from the disease since China abandoned the zero-Covid policy in December.

An official from the National Health Commission, Guo Yanhong told a news conference on Thursday that China has passed the peak period of Covid patients in fever clinics, emergency rooms and with critical conditions.

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