Stronger action needed to reduce malaria burden

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Malaria Day today, the country is expected to step up its efforts to fight this deadly disease that is wreaking havoc on lives and the environment. ‘economy. This is another wake-up call for increasingly ineffective federal, state, and local governments to rejuvenate the Roll Back Malaria agenda.

Adopting the theme: “Harnessing innovation to reduce the burden of malaria disease and save lives”, the World Health Organization, which established April 25 each year as WDA in 2007, explained that t was about highlighting the collective energy and commitment of the global malaria community to unite around the common goal of a malaria-free world. Given the ravages of the disease in the world and in Nigeria in particular, this project should be strongly pursued and with much more resources.

Malaria, a life-threatening disease, is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. It is the deadliest animal in the world in terms of casualty rate. Through its bite, it injects the Plasmodium parasite into humans, which has five species, P falciparum being the most deadly. According to the WHO, 241 million cases of malaria were reported worldwide in 2020. It killed 627,000 people that year. Unsurprisingly, 95% of cases were discovered in sub-Saharan Africa and 96% of deaths.

The World Malaria Report 2021 reaffirmed the sad reality of Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African states: 80% of all malaria deaths in the region were in children under five. This is an unacceptable record that must be reversed at all costs. other African countries account for more than half of the total number of deaths worldwide. It was followed by 13.2% from DR Congo; 4.1% for Tanzania and 3.8% for Mozambique. A study described malaria as Nigeria’s No. 1 public health problem, accounting for 30% of all under-five child deaths, 25% of infant deaths and 11% of maternal deaths.

Its economic costs are also high. Private household spending on malaria treatment, the report adds, “poses a high economic burden on households and the health system.” The US Centers for Disease Control said, “Costs to governments include maintaining, supplying and staffing health facilities; purchase of drugs and supplies; public health interventions against malaria, such as insecticide spraying or distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets; lost working days leading to loss of income; and lost opportunities for economic joint ventures and tourism. It estimates the combined direct costs for the affected areas at $12 billion per year.

Furthermore, it retards Africa’s GDP growth by 1.3% per year. For a continent lagging behind all the others in the development indices, this is distressing.

But the good news is that the disease is both preventable and curable. Nigeria must deliberately trigger new actions and reactivate older ones amid worrying WHO statistics.

The country has failed to use or maximize global interventions to reduce the disease burden. The 1998 Roll Back Malaria project aimed at reducing the malaria burden by at least 50% through specific interventions, and the 2005 Abuja Declaration aimed at reversing the malaria burden, were poorly executed. To this day, Nigeria wavers and wobbles on noble malaria eradication initiatives designed to turn the tide. Like many other national programs, there is no consistency in implementation as successive administrations and ministers often abandon ongoing activities mid-stream to promote empty new slogans.

Together, federal and state governments must implement policies to eradicate malaria. They should implement programs to maintain a clean environment for vector control, provide households with free insecticide-treated bed nets, invest in preventive and curative drugs, and strictly adhere to WHO regulations on malaria control. .

Corrupt government officials hoarded insecticide-treated bed nets that were to be distributed free of charge and sold them for personal profit. Such acts of corruption must be prevented, denounced when they occur and their perpetrators severely punished to have a deterrent effect.

States must equip hospitals, motivate medical personnel, undertake sewer cleaning and reactivate the campaign to re-equip primary health centers to turn the tide against malaria. LGs should focus on providing and financing PHC, accompanied by effective sanitation activities. The health inspection system which was effective under the First Republic should be revived, modernized, well funded and its staff trained and motivated.

Intense campaigns are needed to tackle illiteracy and poverty, two factors identified as key elements among the drivers of malaria to create better living conditions at the grassroots.

Further efforts should be made to protect children under five years of age against moderate to high P. falciparum infections by taking advantage of the WHO-recommended RTS,S malaria vaccine. The success of the pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi is considered a breakthrough for science, child health and the fight against malaria.

Since 2015, WHO has certified Maldives (2015), Sri Lanka (2016), Kyrgyzstan (2016), Paraguay (2018), Uzbekistan (2018), Argentina (2019), Algeria (2019), China (2021) and El Salvador (2021) as malaria-free. Nigeria should take all necessary steps to join this club.

Look also at Bangladesh, which is on track to eliminate malaria in 13 out of 64 districts by initiating high chain coverage, increased use of insecticide-treated bed nets and carrying out rapid diagnostic tests and antimalarial treatments, driven by a large number of community health workers and health facilities.

Different governments need to fund preventative treatment during pregnancy to reduce the burden of malaria in pregnant women, as experts say pregnancy lowers a woman’s immunity to malaria. Among other programs, Nigeria should strongly join the WHO Global Technical Strategy to achieve its goal of reducing the incidence and mortality rates of malaria by 90% by 2030, including eliminating the disease in 35 countries. The federal government and state governments should make sure that Nigeria is one of them.

Copyright PUNCH.

All rights reserved. This material and any other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without the prior express written permission of PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]