The World Malaria Day is commemorated every April 25 to raise awareness about the disease, promote efforts against it and the need for sustained investment and political commitment for its prevention and management and elimination.
This year’s edition was another occasion to ponder on malaria campaign efforts, particularly as they relate to eliminating the disease which has caused millions of deaths globally.
According to expert, malaria, a life-threatening disease, is mostly found in tropical countries and spread to humans by female anopheles mosquitoes.
“Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans.
“People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness,” says a report by U.S.A.’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nigeria ranks among the four countries which accounted for more than half of all malaria deaths globally in 2021.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Nigeria accounted for 31 per cent of malaria deaths recorded globally in 2021.
The organisation’s world malaria report also indicated that there were 247 million malaria cases and 619,000 deaths globally during the period.
The figures indicated an increase of two million cases and a decrease of six million deaths compared to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.
It also stated: “Twenty-nine countries accounted for 96% of malaria cases globally, and four countries – Nigeria (27%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12%), Uganda (5%) and Mozambique (4%) – accounted for almost half of all cases globally.
“About 96% of malaria deaths globally were in 29 countries. Four countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths globally in 2021: Nigeria (31%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (13%), the Niger (4%) and the United Republic of Tanzania (4%).’’
Although these figures are scary, a Pharmaceutical Company, Greenlife Pharmaceutical Ltd., stated that a world without malaria is possible, with collective efforts.
The statement by the company’s Marketing Manager, Dr Wilfred Okolie, also stated that this year’s theme: “Time to Deliver Zero Malaria: Invest, Innovate, Implement’’, is appropriate.
It urged that necessary actions be taken by stakeholders to reduce malaria burden – a major public health concern – and curb its spread.
“Our organisation is pleased to give a message of hope that elimination of malaria is possible.
“For more than 20 years, Greenlife Pharmaceuticals Limited has been leading the fight against drug counterfeiting and working towards a malaria-free environment with our malaria drug P-Alaxin.’’
It stated that urgent, concerted actions were needed to achieve the 2030 targets of the Global Malaria Strategy.
Some state governments say they are not leaving any stone unturned in their efforts to drastically minimise the impact of malaria on their citizens.
The Kaduna State Commissioner for Health, Dr Amina Mohammed-Baloni, said the efforts of the state government are already yielding dividends as it has recorded two per cent reduction in under five mortality rate.
She said the state had also achieved 68 per cent refill rate order for all antimalarial commodities and a reduction of malaria test positivity rate from 33 per cent (NDHS 2018) to 16 per cent in 2021 (MIS 2021).
She told a news conference to mark World Malaria Day in Kaduna that “the Ministry of Works has completed the massive clearance of drains in our communities; this is to reduce breeding of mosquitoes, among other efforts made by the government”.
The Health Policy Research Group (HPRG), University of Nigeria, Nsukka , in a statement to mark the World Malaria Day signed by one its members, Dr Chinyere Okeke, stated that more still needed to be done to eliminate malaria in the country.
“So far, our effort on malaria issue is commendable and Nigeria also has, through malaria consortium, made efforts to mobilise resources domestically that will help in preventing and eradicating malaria,’’ she said.
She it was refreshing that pregnant women had benefited from the governments’ free treatment on intermittent preventive therapy for malaria.
“Malaria is also covered in the basic healthcare provision funds and it’s among the benefit package of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), for both its diagnosis and treatment.
“Nigeria is doing its best, though, we have not reached what the advanced countries have done to eradicate malaria completely; but we will get there someday,’’ Okeke said.
Also, Prof. Dennis Aribodor, a public health expert and parasitologist, who is also lectures at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said that government should make the treatment of malaria free for children in all health facilities, adequate attention and protection of children from the disease would be realised.
Aribodor, a lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, was reported to have made the call in Awka in a statement to mark 2023 World Malaria Day.
Aribodor, also the Founder of Malaria Eradication and Safe Health Initiative of Nigeria, was reported by the media as saying that studies had shown that poverty was hampering anti-malaria efforts.
“Anti-malaria drug today costs between N2,000 and N2,500 for one dose. To buy one good mosquito net costs about N2,500 or N3,000. The question now is: how many people can afford it in Anambra State”, he asked.
Another malaria expert, Prof. Olugbenga Mokuolu told a media forum to mark the World Malaria Day organised by MSH and Internews Health Journalism Network that no fewer than 1.5 billion malaria cases were prevented within 21 years in Africa due to massive scale-up of interventions.
Mokuolu, Malaria Projects Lead, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) said this was indicative that concerted efforts of global partners strengthening health systems to improve malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment have started yielding results.
Mokuolu, a former Malaria Technical Director, National Malaria Elimination Programme, Nigeria appealed to the media to enhance awareness and publicity about malaria.
Given the magnitude of efforts it requires that eliminate malaria from Nigeria in 2030 as done in many countries, the President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, advocates closer partnership among stakeholders.
Dangote, also United Nations’ Malaria Ambassador for Nigeria also urged urgent and improved investment, innovation and meticulous implementation of anti-malaria programmes in the country.
“More than ever, we must collaborate to ensure that no child or person dies of malaria or loses another day to this debilitating illness again.
“We must also drive further progress toward malaria elimination in Nigeria and Africa at large,’’ he said.
Among other efforts to prevent malaria transmission the Federal Government granted provisional approval to Oxford University’s R21 malaria vaccine making it the second country to do so after Ghana, according National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“A provisional approval of the R21 Malaria Vaccine was recommended and this is being done in line with the WHO’s Malaria Vaccine Implementation Guideline.
“While granting the approval, the agency has also communicated the need for expansion of the clinical trial conducted to include a phase 4 clinical trial/Pharmacovigilance study to be carried out in Nigeria,’’ the media recently quoted NAFDAC’s Director-General, Mojisola Adeyeye, as saying.
Malaria poses a major health challenge. It drains family income thereby perpetuating the circle of poverty; its negative impact on child education and productive through absenteeism from school and work place due to ill health is enormous.
However, experts say with concerted and sincere efforts eliminating in Nigeria is not impossible. Many developing countries have done it.
By Dianabasi Effiong, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)