Malaria, a disease caused by a plasmodium parasite, transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes, has continues to claim thousands of lives in Nigeria.
The World Malaria Report of 2017 indicates that the country contributes 27 per cent of the 216 million malaria cases and 24 per cent of the 445,000 malaria deaths.
According to the report about three out of 10 persons having malaria in the world live in Nigeria; one out of four deaths from malaria globally occur in Nigeria and over 54 million malaria cases recorded annually for the last three years.
The prevalence across zones in the country according to 2015 National Malaria Indicator Survey (NMIS) revealed that North West Accounts for 37 per cent; North Central, 32 per cent; North East, 26 per cent; South-South, 19 per cent; South West, 17 per cent and South East 14 per cent.
Nevertheless, the country has over the years formulated policies all in a bid to stamped out malaria for good. For instance, the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NEMP) has formulated Strategic Plan which covers 2014 to 2020 and the aim was aims to achieve pre-elimination and reduce malaria related deaths to zero by 2020.
While increased malaria prevention and control measures are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in Nigeria, stakeholders are however advocating for more political commitments, continued collaborations with development partners and high investment towards malaria prevention, control and treatment. With collaborative efforts by the federal government, development partners and the private sector, stakeholders are optimistic that Nigeria will achieve pre-elimination stage by 2020.
Dr. Lynda Ozor, from World Health Organisation (WHO), said the control and eventual elimination of malaria requires political leadership at the highest level, as well as leadership of programmes, resource mobilization, intersectoral and cross-border collaboration.
Ozor said WHO remains a technical partner to the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, and encouraged strong coordination, clear strategies and determined actions towards malaria control.
She however advised that the country should remain vigilant of the emerging threats of insecticide and drug resistance which have devastating potential to reverse the gains made.
WHO Malaria Containment Programme Officer, Lagos, Dr. Tolu Arowolo , stated that WHO recommends that every pregnant woman living in malaria endemic areas receives the Intermittent Preventive Treatment (IPT) with Sulphadoxine Pyrimethamine (SP) medicine.
She however disclosed that as at 2015, only 19 percent of pregnant women in Nigeria were reported to have received at least 3 doses of SP. She added that the survey carried out revealed that women in urban areas were more likely to have access to IPT than their rural counterparts.
She therefore urged pregnant women to request for the IPT at their various ante-natal clinics so as to prevent malaria. “It is the right of a pregnant woman to request IPT”, she added.
National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Dr Godwin Ntadom has said pregnant women and their unborn children are still at risk of dying from malaria.
Ntadom, in an interview with LEADERSHIP said Nigeria has a population of about 200 million and the people who suffer from malaria are the children and the pregnant women because they cannot develop partial immunity.
The solution according to Ntadom is for the pregnant women to go for early Antenatal Care (ANC), which can help prevent complications during pregnancy, adding that they should take at least three doses of SP for IPT to prevent malaria.
He said SP is recommended by government for pregnant women to prevent malaria and should be given after the pregnant woman feels the child kicking. He also advised that pregnant women should always sleep inside the Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) to prevent malaria in pregnancy.
National coordinator, NMEP, Dr Audu Mohammed, has called for more donor agencies and increased domestic financing to drive malaria elimination in the country.
Mohammed, who was represented by Mr Chukwu Okoronkwo, head, advocacy, communication and social mobilisation, NMEP, made the call at the Integrated Health Parley organised by Breakthrough Action-Nigeria in collaboration with the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) in Lagos.
He said the malaria burden in the country called for concern and required concerted efforts and funding to achieve malaria free Nigeria.
“Quite a lot of donor partners are supporting malaria elimination in the country but in spite of their supports, we still have huge gap which is why malaria is still endemic in Nigeria.
“We are appealing to more donor agencies to come in and government at all levels should increase their funding for malaria elimination,’’ he said.
Mohammed said the prevalence of malaria in Nigeria is 27 per cent and there are variations of endemicity across geopolitical zones going by the 2015 Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS).
“The World Malaria Report of 2017 indicates that Nigeria contributes 27 per cent of the 216 million malaria cases and 24 per cent of the 445,000 malaria deaths.
“About three out of 10 persons having malaria in the world live in Nigeria; one out of four deaths from malaria globally occur in Nigeria and over 54 million malaria cases recorded annually for the last three years.
“We also have prevalence across zones in the country according to 2015 National Malaria Indicator Survey (NMIS).
“North West – 37 per cent, North Central- 32 per cent, North East -26 per cent, South-South- 19 per cent, South West 17 per cent and South East 14 per cent, ” he said.
He said another malaria survey is ongoing and the report will be out by 2019, to show the true situation of Nigeria’s malaria status.
Mohammed however said increased funding for malaria elimination would provide equitable, comprehensive, cost effective, efficient and quality malaria control services.
He appealed to Nigerians to stop self-medication and go for Rapid Diagnostic Test for proper malarial testing.
In her remarks, Dr Bolatito Aiyenigba, Deputy Director, Malaria and Tuberculosis Project, Breakthrough Action-Nigeria said that the project was focused on integrated social health behaviour of Nigerians.
Aiyenigba urged the media to write stories and feature articles to provide adequate information to all Nigerians such that at least 80 per cent of the populace habitually takes appropriate malaria preventive and treatment measures.
The Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole lamented the fact that malaria still poses as a major health challenge to the country.
Isaac said, “It is sad that malaria still poses a major health challenge to the country and is a major cause of death of children under the age of five.”
The minister however assured that government is concerned about this and is working towards additional funding to close existing gaps and move towards elimination.
He said, “We need to de-normalize malaria and nobody should die of malaria because malaria is preventable and treatable.’’