By Edoamaowo Udeme & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA – The Japanese government Friday donated 31 new ambulances to the Federal Ministry of Health for onward distribution to selected tertiary health institutions across the country.

The occasion which had the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole and the Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Sadanobu Kusaoke as well as top officials of the Ministry in attendance, also paraded representatives of beneficiary institutions, many of whom couldn’t hide their excitement about the donation.

Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria Sadanobe Kusaoke

In his opening remarks, Professor Adewole praised Japan for keeping faith with the promise made to Nigeria a few years ago.

“This is the outcome of the note-verbal agreement signed by the Federal Government represented by the National Planning Commission now Ministry of Budget & National Planning and the Japanese Government represented by the Japanese Embassy on the 30th September, 2014.

“I am aware that the 31 Ambulances that are being handed over today is the first phase, and that another additional 12 ambulances will be handed over to us by 2018, as the second phase,” he said.

According to the Minister, the singular act of generosity by the Asia giant would further deepen relationship between the countries in the years ahead, adding that the Ministry of Health would now be more responsive to emergency situations with the ambulances in the service of the various health centres in the country.

“This move by the Japanese government has provided the opportunity to strengthen greater collaboration and partnership between our two countries. With this kind gesture, our bilateral tie is further deepened.

This gesture will contribute immensely in supporting the Federal Government’s efforts in strengthening the National Emergency Response Programme (NERP) of the Federal Ministry of Health. Although we need a pool of ambulances dedicated solely to the NERP, the provision of these ambulances to our Tertiary Heath Institutions across the states will ensure that emergency cases requiring ambulance services will be promptly delivered,” he noted.

And given the worrisome statistics of road crashes in Nigeria, the Minister said government is doing everything possible to address the situation, noting that the loss to Nigeria annually from road fatalities runs into billions of naira.

“According to World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2015, 1 in every 4 road crash deaths in Africa occur in Nigeria, having a higher death toll than malaria. Hardly does a day go by without the occurrence of road accidents leading to injuries and death with lots of financial implication to both the society and the individuals involved…Also, Nigeria loses about N80 billion annually to road accidents.

“In response to this ugly trend, the Federal Ministry of Health for the first time in 2016 produced a robust Policy on Emergency Medical Services including use of ambulance. The policy links emergency services personnel, trauma pathways, Integrated National Ambulance Service System, and the toll free 3-digit number 112, to government agencies in the business of emergency services.

This is to be coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Health. The policy further delineates roles and responsibilities of agencies involved in emergency response to eliminate inter-agency rivalry and ensure interoperability and synergy among agencies,” he explained.

On his part, Ambassador Kusaoke expressed the readiness of the Japanese government to continue to assist Nigeria, noting that “health is a top priority in Japan’s relationship” with the nation. Japan, he noted “has been providing various equipments and medical facilities for health services in Nigeria,” and will continue to do in the years ahead.

Beneficiary Institutions include the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakiliki, Federal Medical Centre, Birni-Kebbi and University of Abuja Teaching Hospital. Others are Federal Medical Centre, Asaba, Federal Medical Centre, Bida, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital and National Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu amongst others.

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