THE SHAME OF THE MALARIA SCOURLE

Authorities could do more to contain the disease

In virtually every critical human development indicator, Nigeria falls behind. Despite costing Nigeria up to N132 billion a year, malaria has yet to receive the level of attention it deserves as government at all levels refuses to take responsibility of the disease. It is therefore no surprise when the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehinare, revealed recently that Nigeria has the highest number of malaria cases and deaths in the world. According to Ehinare, Nigeria alone has contributed to around 27% of the world’s malaria cases and 27% of the world’s deaths.

All Nigerians, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), are at risk of malaria as it is a tropical disease. The 2020 World Malaria Report released last month stated that “Malaria is transmitted throughout Nigeria; 76% of the population live in areas with high transmission, while 24% live in areas with low transmission. The transmission season can last all year round in the south and around three months or less in the north of the country. The main vector in most of the country is the Anopheles mosquito. »

While huge sums of money have been invested in this deadly disease, deaths continue to rise. Available statistics reveal that the Global Fund has committed some $708 million to the fight against malaria in Nigeria between 2008 and 2021, while the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has disbursed a total of $420 million since then. 2010. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also year pledged to invest $90 million over the next five years in Nigeria to fight malaria in eight states.

Several programs and initiatives have also been put in place to combat the disease. In the year 2000, the slogan Roll Back Malaria (RBM) was launched with fanfare. RBM is a global initiative to halve the suffering caused by this disease by 2010. The initiative is growing as a social movement. The action is led by national authorities supported by a global partnership of development agencies, banks, private sector groups and researchers. We have also embarked on the phase of impregnated mosquito nets and hundreds of billions have fallen into the water. We are a country where the government fantasizes about slogans, deodorizes mantras and invests less action in deliverables.

Last October, the WHO announced its approval of the first malaria vaccine for children. The vaccine, codenamed RTS.S and manufactured by pharmaceutical company GKS, was approved after clinical trials involving two million doses in three countries: Ghana, Malawi and Kenya. This development is a breakthrough for public health, especially in our country, but we are not aware of any efforts by Nigerian authorities to engage the company.

The director of the Society for Family Health’s Malaria Project, Dr. Ernest Nwokolo, once used chilling images to highlight the depth of the scourge of malaria in Nigeria. He said the 800 Nigerian deaths recorded daily in the country due to malaria were equivalent to the daily crash of two Boeing 747s with no survivors. His data matched a statement by former US Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle that malaria “is responsible for 60% of outpatient visits to health facilities, 30% of child deaths, 25% of child deaths under one year and 11% of maternal deaths” in Nigeria.

Although Ehinare said the country had made efforts to contain the scourge of malaria, he did not highlight these measures even when the picture he painted of the challenge was of crisis proportion. Therefore, what Nigerians expect is not just a lamentation over the number of Nigerians killed by malaria, but rather what the authorities will do to change the unfortunate narrative.

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