Is this the final offensive?
Sir: Malaria is preventable and treatable, and history shows that it can be eliminated. Less than a century ago, it was prevalent across the world, including Europe and North America. Malaria was eliminated in most of Western Europe by the mid-1930s; the United States achieved malaria elimination in 1951. While developed countries have successfully eliminated malaria, Nigeria and other developing countries are still suffering from malaria. According to World Health Statistics, malaria mortality rate for Nigeria is 156 per 100,000 populations because despite the human and economic costs of malaria, most Nigerians remain uninformed about both prevention and treatment of the disease.
The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes parasites called plasmodium; it is transmitted all year round with its peak transmission during the rainy season. Symptoms of malaria include; fever, shivering, and pain in the joints, headache, vomiting, convulsions, and coma. Other danger signs include; neurological change, abnormal breathing pattern, persistent vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, dark urine, delayed capillary refill, intense and pallor, high fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, and severe anemia. Timely recognition of these signs can lead to decrease in complications and deaths. Malaria is especially dangerous to pregnant women and children. Malaria can cause lifelong intellectual disabilities in children; malaria’s economic impact is estimated to cost billions of naira loss yearly.
An analogy in this fight against the world’s most deadly diseases can be likened to military actions, with combatants on both sides of the war; employing surprise strategies to ensure the enemy is totally defeated and destroyed. This is achievable (against mosquitoes) employing the following arsenals in this fierce battle: Education/public awareness campaign is very vital to reduce and totally eliminate the spread of the killer disease. Mosquitoes breeds in stagnant water and as a result our environment should always be kept clean; there should be no storing of dirty water and we must apply general cleanliness.
A second element of the strategy is sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net, and spraying of insecticides in our homes and surroundings (denying the enemy (mosquito), freedom of action). Early detection and treatment with effective medicines is the third step in malaria control. The fourth recommended approach is giving malaria-prevention drugs to all pregnant women at least twice during their pregnancies – after the first trimester and at 16 weeks. Pregnancy lowers women immunity; it lowers their ability to fight malaria parasites.
The nation loses billions of naira due to loss of man-hours resulting from sickness and cost of treatment of malaria. It is a major cause of absenteeism from work and school. Malaria has negative effects on tourism and travels especially during the high transmission seasons. This has undesirable consequences as Nigeria is developing tourism as a means of growing the country’s economy.
These huge losses in lives and revenue have propelled the Federal Government to aim at eliminating this disease in 2020. Government has laid out some strategies to achieve this which include increasing funding for health sector. To support this effort, the United States (world leading donor in global health) and other philanthropists are investing in researches and programmes aimed at targeting and eliminating not just the malaria-transmitting mosquitos, but also the disease itself, which can survive in humans for more than 10 years.
The fight to achieve amalaria free country requires collective efforts (from everyone and not just government alone). There is need to support and sustain efforts or programmes being carried out or planned by government, foreign aids and NGO’s towards tackling the disease. We play our part in ensuring our surroundings are kept clean including our drainage. Also rather than patronise quacks doctors, who operate substandard medical facilities or do self-medication when we are ill, we should endeavour to meet qualified doctors.
Our target for malaria free society (vision 2020) must be actualised as we cannot afford to fail like we did in our previous developmental visions and programmes (visions 2000 and vision 2010).
Albert Olawale Oyedokun, COREN registered.