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The fight against malaria suffered some setbacks around the world in 2020. The coronavirus epidemic
diverted global attention to its control and prevention, to the detriment of several other diseases. The result was an increase in malaria deaths from 558,000 in 2019 to 627,000 in 2020. Additionally, the number of cases increased from 227 million in 2019 to 241 million in 2020. This shows an increase of 6.17 % of incidents and a 12.37% increase in cases. malaria deaths in 2020.
To get the world back on track, this year’s World Malaria Day (WMD) is titled “Harnessing innovation to reduce the burden of malaria and save lives”. This aims to redirect funds, efforts and attention towards the fight against malaria to eradicate it by 2030. The World Health Organization (WHO), which has established April 25 each year as the WDA in 2007, explained that it was to highlight the collective energy and commitment of the global malaria community to unite around the common goal of a malaria-free world.
Considering the ravages of the disease in the world and particularly in Nigeria, this project should be pursued with force and with much more resources. Experts are troubled that despite efforts to contain the disease, Nigeria loses more than $1.1 billion (645.7 billion naira) a year for the prevention and treatment of the disease and others costs. According to them, malaria killed as many as 200,000 Nigerians and affected 61 million others in 2021. They also said that Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Tanzania and Mozambique accounted for more half of all malaria deaths.
Malaria is a potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. It is the deadliest creature in the world in terms of casualty rate. Through its bite, it injects the plasmodium parasite into humans, which has five species, with P falciparum being the deadliest. The WHO said there were 241 million reported cases of malaria worldwide in 2020. It killed 627,000 people that year. Unsurprisingly, 95% of cases were discovered in sub-Saharan Africa and 96% of deaths.
The World Malaria Report 2021 reaffirmed the sad reality of Nigeria and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa: 80% of all malaria deaths in the region were in children under five. This is an unacceptably high toll that should be reversed at all costs. President Muhammadu Buhari and all state governors should pay attention to these appalling numbers.
Nigeria, with 31.9% of the total, led three other African countries to account for more than half of the total number of deaths worldwide. It was followed by 13.2% from DR Congo; 4.1% for Tanzania and 3.8% for Mozambique. One study described malaria as Nigeria’s number one public health problem, accounting for 30% of all under-five child deaths, 25% of infant deaths and 11% of maternal mortality.
The US Centers for Disease Control said, “Costs to governments include maintaining, supplying and staffing health facilities; purchase of drugs and supplies; public health interventions against malaria, such as insecticide spraying or distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets; lost working days leading to loss of income; and lost opportunities for economic joint ventures and tourism. It estimates the combined direct costs for the affected areas at $12 billion per year.
In addition, malaria increases Africa’s GDP by 1.3% per year. This is heartbreaking for a continent that lags behind all others on the development index. Nevertheless, the good thing is that the disease is both preventable and curable. Following disturbing statistics from the global health body, Nigeria must deliberately trigger and restart old operations.
Nigeria has been unable to use global interventions to reduce the intensity of the disease. Unfortunately, the 1998 Roll Back Malaria project aimed at reducing the malaria burden by at least 50% and the 2005 Abuja Declaration aimed at reducing the malaria burden have not been properly implemented. To date, the country has done little to reverse the trend. Like other national programs, inconsistency and poor enforcement dogged it.
Federal and state governments must take action to eradicate malaria. They should implement programs to maintain a healthy environment for vector control, provide free insecticide-treated bed nets to households, fund preventive and curative drugs, and strictly adhere to WHO regulations on malaria control. Corrupt government officials who divert insecticide-treated nets for personal use must be prosecuted.
Hospitals must be equipped, while medical staff must be motivated. It is necessary to clean the drains and re-equip the primary health centers to reverse the trend against malaria. Local governments should fund health centers, accompanied by effective sanitation activities. The health inspection system which was effective under the First Republic should be revived, modernized, well funded and its staff trained and encouraged.
In a goodwill message on the occasion, the Rivers State Government reiterated its political will and commitment to reducing the disease burden of the people of Rivers. Deputy Governor Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo said this at Government House, Port Harcourt to commemorate World Malaria Day 2022. Under the watch of the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, the rate of Malaria prevalence had dropped significantly to 11.3% against the national prevalence of 24%, she noted.
Other statistics from the WHO State Coordinator, Dr Okafor Chinenye, revealed that Rivers State was closest to reaching the WHO pre-elimination phase of 5% case rate. positivity. Chinenye, who was represented by the WHO focal point for information, planning, monitoring and evaluation in the state, Mr Akuneto Reagan, said the latest national survey of 2018 showed that the The state had the lowest malaria prevalence of the entire South-South zone at 11%.
With this, Rivers ranks modestly among the top five states in Nigeria. This gigantic success is undoubtedly attributed to Governor Wike whose robust health policy in the state is second to none. While we sincerely congratulate the government on this monumental achievement, the good news is reason to be more careful to ensure that more is done to keep the state on the path to malaria elimination.
As part of our commitment to reducing the burden of malaria and saving lives in the state, the people of Rivers must take responsibility for keeping their environment clean, getting rid of standing water, sleeping under mosquito nets treated with insecticide and test for malaria before taking medication. in the quest to control and eliminate disease. It is important to note that federal and state governments should fund preventative treatment during pregnancy to reduce the burden of malaria in pregnant women, as experts say pregnancy lowers a woman’s immunity to malaria. .