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Tackling the malaria challenge

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that malaria killed 429,000 and infected 212 million people in 2015. The global health agency also observed that millions of people in Africa still lack tools to prevent and treat the disease.

WHO, in its latest World Malaria Report, disclosed that the marginal progress made in the control of the menace was threatened by the rapid resistance to insecticides by the mosquitoes which transmit the disease. Resistance of the malaria parasites to anti-malarial drugs as well as shortfalls in funding were also identified as critical problems in the battle against the disease. The report indicated that sub-Saharan Africa had a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden last year. The region, according to the report, accounted for 90 per cent of the cases and 92 per cent of malaria deaths. The document further pointed out that children under five years of age were particularly vulnerable.

The World Malaria Report provides an in-depth annual analysis of progress and trends on the disease at global, regional and country levels. It is a collaborative effort with the ministries of health of the affected countries and global partners. The WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, noted that “we have made excellent progress, but our work is incomplete.”

In Nigeria, recent statistics on the disease show that malaria is responsible for 11 per cent of maternal mortality, 25 per cent of infant mortality and 35 per cent of under-five mortality. According to the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, malaria is the single most important reason why any Nigerian visits a health facility. He added that between 60-70 per cent of hospital consultations and visits can be traced to malaria.

The World Malaria Report should make countries in Africa and other malaria-endemic zones wake up to the challenge of the disease and do something urgently to contain it.  As 2017 progresses, African governments should devote more of their resources to health funding and wage a relentless war against malaria. Since testing is now mandatory before treatment, governments in Africa should lead the campaign and provide enough diagnostic test tools in their health facilities.

We urge the federal and state governments to properly fund the war against malaria in the country. They should redouble their efforts to ensure that the disease is brought under control. This collaborative effort has become necessary because no one tier of government can do it alone in this period of paucity of funds. It is, indeed, unacceptable that malaria is the major cause of hospital visits in the country. There is the need to reverse the trend. The local governments should also contribute to the effort to keep malaria at bay in the country.

Since the bulk of the disease burden is in the rural areas, the third tier of government should be in the forefront of the effort to clear drains so that mosquitoes will not easily have breeding places. The local governments should assist in making sure that the environment is clean and houses are regularly fumigated against mosquitoes.

There should also be regular public enlightenment on the prevention of the disease and how to access treatment. Since all fevers are not malaria, government should encourage mandatory diagnosis before treatment. In this regard, the cost of the diagnosis should be considerably reduced. If the cost of pre-treatment diagnosis is affordable, many more Nigerians will embrace it.

There is also the need to encourage the use of Long Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLIN). It’s usage in most parts of the country is low. It is also advisable that we start manufacturing our own mosquito nets so that the prices can be cheaper and more affordable. Our dependence on imported mosquito nets is not helping the fight against malaria. The time has come for us to complement the global response to malaria with our own home-grown response to the disease.

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Editor, Online: Ikenna Emewu
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