Global agency faults Nigerian doctors on malaria treatment
• Criticises malaria treatment without tests
• Decries continued importation of mosquito nets
• Survey shows disease declining among children
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) yesterday expressed dismay that Nigerian doctors were treating malaria without carrying out key tests.
“Too many medical professionals are still treating without testing. This is easy to fix but the men and women need to be taught about changing that culture in the Nigerian medical professional,” said the agency’s Country Director, Michael Harvey, in Abuja.
He added: “Secondly, we are not treating malaria properly. I am surprised to find that when you travel around Nigeria, Chloroquine is readily available and too readily prescribed as treatment for malaria. This is a major public policy we have to get on top of. We are still producing Chloroquine in Nigeria, a drug that has no benefit, either for malaria or any other use.”
Harvey was also disturbed about the continuous importation of mosquito nets into the country when there is “an industry in Nigeria that is producing them at a cost people can afford. What is very clear from the report, however, is that there are some immediate to-dos in our action list. First, testing to see if a fever is malaria. And this is something that should be doable, since affordable test kits are readily available either through the public sector or private sector at an affordable cost.”
Meanwhile, a new national survey released yesterday indicates decline in malaria rates among children. But this, notwithstanding, experts say the country is still far from its vision of a malaria-free state.
The ‘2015 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey (NMIS)’ was conducted by the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), the National Population Commission (NPC)), and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and was funded by several international development partners.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who spoke at the launch of the report, said malaria remained a major public health challenge, though the last 10 to 15 years of elimination initiatives in Nigeria had witnessed increased human and material resources deployment.
He said: “The 2015 NMIS is distinctively different from the 2010 NMIS in that its data are disaggregated to provide state-specific indicators, which, of course, provide us with the opportunity to develop state-specific malaria control strategies, as we move the country towards malaria elimination.”
He said the report should help government and partners re-appraise efforts in line with the current national malaria strategic plan.
Director of Public Health at the ministry, Evelyn Ngige, noted: “Malaria-related deaths account for 11 per cent of maternal mortality, 25 per cent of infant mortality and 30 per cent of under-five mortality in Nigeria.”
The 2015 NMIS is the second malaria indicator survey to be implemented in Nigeria. It shows a 35 per cent decline since the 2010 survey. It describes the development as an important stride towards elimination of the disease. It also shows that about one in four children under five years tested positive for malaria.
“This represents a 35 per cent decline since the last malaria indicator survey in 2010 when more than 40 per cent of children tested positive for the disease.”
Nigeria accounts for 29 per cent of the global burden of malaria and has the highest number of cases of any country. Experts say this highlights the need to focus on treatment as well as prevention.
Nationwide, malaria prevalence varies widely, ranging from 14 per cent in the South East Zone to 37 per cent in the North West Zone.
The survey says the decrease in malaria rates correspond with expanded prevention interventions, as ownership of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) has increased eight-fold since 2008 when only eight per cent of households had one.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.