Nigeria, for a long time now, has suffered the scourge of Malaria, to the point that the tropical disease has become synonymous with the country and also Africa at large.
As the world prepares to mark Malaria Day this month, Nigeria, as one of the ways of effectively fighting the disease, is expected to prioritise it’s strategies and also take another look at its options towards eradicating the disease.
As common and regular as Malaria is in Nigeria, there are presently no known plans, especially with regard to participating in the pilot vaccine scheme just introduced to eradicate the disease once and for all.
Analysts have said that those profiteering from the disease by selling the medication that temporarily cures it are behind the not too serious disposition towards finding a permanent remedy for it. To others, it is simply a case of the country’s poor hygiene situation. Mosquitoes, the insects that carry the malaria parasite, are usually attracted to bodies of stagnant water, hot, humid and dirty environments as well as bushes.
According to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), 409 000 people have died of malaria in 2019. Also there were 229 million new malaria infections in 2019, 1.5 billion malaria cases averted since 2000 and 7.6 million malaria-related deaths averted since 2000.
WHO also notes that each year, more than 400 000 people die of malaria, considered a preventable and treatable disease. ‘An estimated two thirds of deaths are among children under the age of five.’
The organisation also adds that 29 countries accounted for 95 per cent of malaria cases globally, with Nigeria having 27 per cent, the Democratic Republic of the Congo 12 per cent, Uganda 5 per cent, Mozambique 4 per cent and Niger 3 per cent, accounting for about 51 per cent of all cases globally.
WHO African Region claims that with an estimated 215 million cases in 2019, the region accounted for about 94 per cent of cases.
Malaria is commonly spread by Plasmodium parasites, which are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. What most people do not know is that there are five parasite species that bring about malaria in human beings. However, not all are big threats except for two namely: P. falciparum and P. vivax which are deadly. So deadly that according to WHO reports, if P. falciparum is not treated within 24 hours, ‘malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.’
Symptoms of malaria appear 10 to 15 days after one is bitten. These symptoms include but are not limited to: sweating, fever, chills, headache, tiredness, shivering, nausea or vomiting.
There are reports that in 2018, P. falciparum ‘accounted for 99.7 per cent of estimated malaria cases in the WHO African Region, 50 per cent of cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region, 71 per cent of cases in the Eastern Mediterranean and 65 per cent in the Western Pacific.
In the opinion of this newspaper, to deal with the problem of malaria, the country has to focus on sensitising the populace on the importance of proper hygiene. The use of insecticide treated nets is also important as well as indoor residual spraying among others.
But most importantly, in our view, the country has to get on the bandwagon of Malaria vaccine and work on accessing these vaccines as soon as possible. In 2019, three sub-Saharan African countries namely: Ghana, Kenya and Malawi led the RTS,S vaccine launch which according to WHO has shown can notably reduce the spread of malaria, in chosen areas.
Therefore, we are of the considered opinion that the federal government should do all it can to develop or access these malaria vaccines that could assist in eliminating the disease.
Nigeria should look beyond individual prevention and instead focus on a larger and lasting solution to solving the problem. The federal government should also set a target date for this accomplishment.
WHO has presented a list of countries that have at least attained three consecutive years of zero indigenous cases of malaria and that can apply for a WHO certification of malaria-free status. African countries that have achieved this goal are: Algeria, Lesotho, Mauritius, La Réunion and Seychelles.
This shows that Malaria is not an incurable disease. Nigeria should therefore strive to be counted among the malaria free nations of the world.