Nigeria’s N2 trillion malaria fight
Sir: Africa has a malaria problem. When mosquitoes whine, Africans know what is coming. When stagnant waters sit still, and grasses blossom unchecked, Africans know that what is bred is death. What is true for Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, is true for Nigeria. In a message to commemorate the World Malaria Day on April 25, 2022, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, lamented that Africa reported more than 600,000 deaths from malaria in 2021.
Moeti said that six African countries, the worst impacted by Malaria in the region, are reported to have accounted for up to 55 per cent of cases globally and 50 per cent of deaths. African countries like Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Mozambique accounted for over half of all malaria deaths. In Nigeria, for example, a National Malaria Elimination Programme report established that about 10 persons die of malaria every hour with a total of about 90,000 malaria-related deaths recorded in the country every year.
Nigeria has in place a National Malaria Strategic Plan 2021-25 which is aimed at achieving a parasitic prevalence of less than 10 per cent and reducing mortality attributable to malaria to less than 50 deaths per 1000 live births by the year 2015. For this, the country would need about N1.89 trillion.
On Tuesday, June 16, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Nigeria End Malaria Council (NEMC) and projected that were the Council to successfully implement its agenda, the country would be saved from the economic burden of malaria which sits at about N2 trillion.
The President charged the 16-member Council headed by the founder and President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, that beyond improving the quality of life, health and well-being of Nigerians, the concerted strategy to tackle malaria had both public health as well as socio-economic benefits for Nigeria.
Malaria in pregnancy is a significant contributor to maternal and neonatal mortality. It is a major cause of anaemia in pregnant women, which contributes to maternal death at delivery due to haemorrhage and also causes stillbirths, preterm birth, and low birth weight increasing the risk of neonatal death.
In 2018, an estimated 11 million pregnant women were infected with malaria in areas of moderate and high disease transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, nearly 900,000 children were born with a low birth weight.
While funding remains a major barrier to completely eliminating malaria, it is critical to encourage more pregnant women and children to continue to sleep under insecticide-treated nets.
Also, the use of effective vector control insecticide treated nets or indoor residual spraying) and preventive anti malarial medicines to protect pregnant women and children from malaria remain key.
Also, robust health services that provide expanded access to proven malaria control tools – including prompt diagnostic testing and treatment – is key to meeting the goals of the Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030 (GTS)