In a recent investigative report by LEADERSHIP Weekend, it was learnt that malaria was taking a heavy toll on Nigeria’s economy in terms of the high death rate and the loss of man-hours due to illness, as well as the huge financial cost of treating the disease estimated at N120billion every year.
Corroborating this is a World Malaria Report of the year 2020 which indicated that Nigeria accounted for 27 percent of malaria cases and 23 percent of global malaria deaths in 2019. Data from the report show the country had 23 million confirmed cases of malaria and estimated that there were as many as 60.9 million cases.
And the most recent statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the African region accounts for 94% of all malaria cases and deaths worldwide, and six countries on the continent account for approximately half of all malaria deaths globally. According to the statistics, Nigeria accounts for 24%; Democratic Republic of the Congo, 11%; United Republic of Tanzania, 5%; Burkina Faso, 4%; Mozambique, 4% and Niger, 4%.
Also, the 2019 World Malaria Report rated Nigeria as the country with the highest number of annual global malaria cases, accounting for 25 % of 229 million world malaria cases. Nigeria also accounted for the highest number of deaths with 24% of 409,000 worldwide yearly malaria deaths. The country has occupied that unenviable position for several successive decades. Malaria is transmitted all over the country, while over 70% of the country’s population resides in high transmission areas.
Global direct costs of malaria annually through illness, treatment, and premature deaths have been estimated to be far above $10billion as of 2020, while the cost in lost economic growth is several fold more.
Health experts say these damning statistics underscore the need for concerted efforts to combat malaria, which has continued to take a toll on many nations, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa where high burden of poverty has continued to compound the matter.
It was gathered by this paper that the most vulnerable Nigerians are paying between N1,000 and N3,000 to test for and treat malaria. On an average, they spend N2,000 to treat each case of malaria, amounting to N46billion for the confirmed cases and a figure as high as N120bn for the 61 million estimated cases.
To combat this menace, the Nigerian government formulated the National Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP 2021-2025) with a set target, which plans to address morbidity and mortality burden of malaria.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that already, well-meaning Nigerians are keying into the call for collective action to eradicate malaria. Prominent among them is Prince Ned Munir Nwoko, chairman of Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation (PNNF), who appears to have his eyes fixed on eradication of malaria in Nigeria and Africa as opposed to treatment and control. Due to his serious concern for his country and Africa, he, through the PNNF, Nwoko picked up the gauntlet to confront one of Africa’s and humanity’s biggest health and socio-economic challenges – malaria.
Over the last two years, the foundation has been carrying out intensive campaigns through various activities, all targeted at eradicating malaria in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Within the last six months in particular, the foundation sought and obtained approval from the Federal Ministry of Health to support and coordinate a national response towards malaria eradication involving strategic partnerships for the deployment of the premier malaria vaccine, RTSS in Nigeria.
The approval was the culmination of relentless efforts and advocacy of the PNNF towards achieving its objective of permanently getting rid of malaria in Nigeria and Africa.
Essentially, the Ned Nwoko Foundation Malaria Eradication in Africa Project (PNNF-MEAP) aims to work and collaborate with appropriate multilateral agencies, organisations, companies, governments and individuals to achieve a malaria-free Nigeria and Africa by extension in less than a decade.
The foundation’s cardinal delivery plans cover supporting or investing in development of anti-malaria vaccine, environmental sanitation, waste recycling, indoor residual spray and fumigation.
The recent approval of RTSS malaria vaccine implementation in endemic countries by the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided yet another ray of hope.
Reflectively, the RTSS vaccine is a product of decades of research, which involved stages of trial. In all the RTSS trials revealed that it is effective in infants aged 1 to 5 years. It is the first vaccine to be endorsed by WHO for widespread use in countries. The final clinical trial of the vaccine was carried out in three sub-Saharan African countries of Ghana, Malawi and Kenya under the WHO’s Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP).
Already, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has approved implementation of the vaccine in Nigeria. It is noteworthy that the United Nations (UN) and the WHO, having noticed the Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation’s determination, accepted to collaborate with it in the quest to eradicate malaria from Nigeria and Africa.
On Wednesday, December 18, 2019, the PNNF formally began the journey towards a malaria-free Nigeria and Africa when Prince Ned Nwoko unveiled the malaria eradication in Africa project. This was followed by Ned Nwoko’s strategic expedition to the world’s coldest continent, Antarctica and the South Pole, between 8th and 15th of January 2020, calling for malaria eradication in Africa. During the expedition, he also held valuable discussion with a group of scientists in the Antarctic Research Based Stations on the quest to fumigate Africa and accelerate development of a reliable malaria vaccine.
On February 25, 2020, the PNNF held a roundtable discussion with some Nigerian professors and experts that worked on the lot to lot trial of the RTS,S Malaria Vaccine. Notable conclusions at the meeting include galvanizing plans to advocate for the implementation of the RTS Vaccine in Nigeria; establishing a proper malaria surveillance system and improving on effective data management.
In furtherance of the efforts to bring RTS,S Malaria Vaccine to Nigeria, the PNNF invited the RTS,S Vaccine experts and other malaria specialists to a two-day workshop to develop a concept note and proposal to the Federal Ministry of Health for the foundation to lead in the deployment of RTS,S in Nigeria.
On July 27, 2021, minister of Health in a letter addressed to Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation, graciously approved the foundation’s proposal to lead in the roll-out of the RTS,S vaccine in Nigeria when the vaccine is approved by the WHO.
The foundation has initiated the process of having a bill for malaria eradication sponsored and passed at the National Assembly and it has held meetings with the leadership of the National Assembly as well as the chairmen of the relevant Senate and House committees for collaboration.
At a recent discussion, panelists harped on the need for African leaders to rise up to the occasion to fight malaria, ensure reduction of bureaucracy in the malaria intervention processes, create greater awareness and enlightenment of the populace to ensure success of the various interventions.
The panelists also emphasized the need for more public private partnership to strengthen the various interventions; increased visibility and affordability of the interventions; use of innovative measures to trigger access to commodities and in-country productions and the need for African leaders, global malaria stakeholders, international organisations and other stakeholders to join hands to end malaria in Africa.
Experts assert that the malaria partnership in Nigeria must be proactive in ensuring that Nigeria is prioritized and is ready to receive and deploy the vaccine.
Speaking to our correspondent, a staff of the PNNF said, “Based on the approval from the Ministry of Health for the possible support and roll out of the RTSS Vaccine, the PNNF has started meetings and consultations with relevant vaccine partners and will share a roadmap of implementation soon”.
He further said, “The PNNF feels fulfilled that the RTS,S Vaccine which it proposed has been approved by the WHO. The foundation has demonstrated its readiness to lead the way in the implementation of the vaccine in Nigeria”.