President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday called on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to focus on boosting comprehensive Primary Healthcare in its intervention programmes across the country rather than funding the eradication of individual diseases like polio, tuberculosis and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Saraki gave the charge when the new Country Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Nigeria, Dr. Pauline Basinga, visited him in Abuja.
He said: “I would want you to take back one key message because it is our hope that we will eradicate polio and be certified as polio free country. The question now is what next as a Foundation?
“This visit is timely in the sense that my view going forward has to do with one of the greatest concerns here in the Senate and the National Assembly which is basic and universal healthcare coverage. I believe that that is where the next discussion should be. My message to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is that that is where the focus and efforts should be.
“I believe that universal health coverage can be done in such a way that would make it viable for the private sector to participate, apart from charitable foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to be able to mop up the funds that are required.”
Continuing, he said: “Like I said to Bill Gates Foundation way back in 2008, I still have the strong view that in your efforts to address healthcare, we should move away from focusing on different types of diseases like tuberculosis, AIDS, or polio. We should go to the roots of the problem by addressing primary healthcare. That is where I believe that the Foundation can be of great value to this great country and the National Assembly is ready to partner with you to put up the necessary framework.”
Earlier, the new country Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Paulin Basinga, said the visit was part of the Foundation’s efforts to re-think its operations.
“At the Gates Foundation, we are rethinking our approach to development, as we are bringing most of our support and resources close to the ground. We support health, agriculture and financial inclusion. And we work very closely with different agencies of the federal government across the federation.
“You (Saraki) are known by the Gates Foundation as someone, from your time as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, it was an impressive time when you really called all the Governors and helped us to realise for the first time that it was important to work very closely with the Governors on intervention towards polio eradication,” he said.