19 October 2006

Nigeria: HIV/Aids - 'Nigeria 3rd Highest Infested Country'

Abuja — Nigeria has been named the third country in the world, after South Africa and India, with the highest number of people living with the dreaded diseases, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

This disclosure was made yesterday in Abuja by the Country Director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Mr. Pierre M'Pele, at a media briefing to commemorate the United Nations Week.

He cautioned that Nigeria and other African countries would be left behind in regards to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), except stakeholders and government work together seriously to meet the goals.

In the words of M'Pele, "Nigeria is the third most infested state in the world after South Africa and India. There are over four million Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS and in 2005, over 300,000 Nigerians died of HIV/AIDS related illnesses. In Nigeria, there are over one million orphans whose parents died due to HIV/AIDS scourge."

According to him, the biggest challenge before this generation is the HIV/AIDS scourge, adding that the UN System was working together to provide care and support as well as reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV/AIDS, and alleviating the impact of the epidemic.

"The overarching goal of UNAIDS in Nigeria is to support the country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal number six on HIV/AIDS", he said.

The Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Nigeria, Mr. Alberic Kacou, also stated that the theme for the UN week which is "Make Poverty History: Achieve the Millennium Deve-lopment Goals in Nigeria" was informed by both global and national issues.

In his words, "In truth, some progress has been made, but not significant enough to arrest poverty's relentless advance. The worst hit continent is sub-Sahara Africa, where most countries are unlikely to meet the 2015 target if present trend continues."

Kacou asserted that Nigeria was critical to Africa's capacity to meet the MDGs.

"Infact, Africa cannot meet the goals without Nigeria. The reason for this is simple. One, Nigeria is Africa 's most populous country, with at least one in five Africans being Nigerian. Two, 54.4 percent of Nigerians living in poverty represents a staggering figure not only for the country, but also for the continent", he said.

He said the UN appreciated the efforts being made by the Nigerian government to reduce poverty and achieve the MDGs, but also cautioned that the reforms have to be sustained.

"These reforms have to be sustained and a lot more still need to be done, especially in placing the MDGs at the heart of NEEDS II, continuing to emphasise and strengthen fiscal responsibility, building the capacity of governments across board to invest wisely for development, and strengthening institutions for the delivery of essential health, education and other social services", he noted.

He averred that "We have just eight years left (to meet the MDGs) and it is a challenge for all to ensure we meet the goals before 2015. I think we need to be serious and work together in order to achieve these goals to reduce poverty."

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