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Nigeria far from eliminating malaria

Posted: Apr 29, 2015 at 8:56 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Yinka Shokunbi, Lagos

Unless there is further encouraging news about the trial vaccines currently going on in seven African countries, Nigeria’s programme on malaria may be far from achieving the desired result of eliminating malaria.

Although the promising trial vaccine which has been tested on 16,000 children from seven African countries excluding Nigeria found that booster doses were of limited use and vaccines in young babies were not effective, experts have warned that unless more funding is made available, Nigeria may never be rid of the malaria vector.

Scientists gathering at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Lagos on Tuesday, at a symposium to mark the World Malaria Day submitted that the various efforts at combating the endemic disease in the country “have been complex and contradictory, hence near futility”.

Addressing the gathering, Director General, Professor Innocent Ujah, represented by Director of Research, Nkiruka Odunukwe, noted; “Although the 2014 World malaria reports testifies to the fact that the malaria target under the MDG 6 had been met with 55 countries on track to reduce the malaria burden by 75% by the end of 2015, the situation in Nigeria is complex and contradictory.

“Whereas, malaria had accounted for over 60% of hospital out-patient visits, 25% infant deaths, 30% of all under-five and 11% of maternal mortality annually, all the efforts to improve on these figures through the National Malaria Elimination Programme has not significantly changed the trend”, observed the DG.

Ujah lamented that the economic loss to the Nigerian nation as a result of man-hour loss per annum from absenteeism from work due to malaria fever is enormous and runs into billions of Naira.

In his keynote address on the theme: ‘Invest in the future, Defeat Malaria’, Lagos State commissioner for health, Dr Jide Idris observed that though NIMR has been involved in a lot of research works on malaria, the effect would only be meaningful if sufficient support is given for scaling up of findings by all stakeholders with federal government taking the lead.

According to Idris, “A lot of the research funding for NIMR comes from external bodies; there is need for concerted effort to invest more seriously in our public health institutions especially in the area of research”.

He pointed out that no country can make any progress especially in the health sector without research because that is the only place where new things are discovered and new things are modified.

“Findings are made and these help in making decisions and guidelines for policies which are very essential”, said Idris.

He challenged the in-coming administration of the General Muhammadu Buhari to revisit some of the moribund health facilities and revitalize same.

According to Idris, there is very strong awareness now in the country and we know there is need to address our decaying infrastructure, the moribund vaccine factory is definitely part of the infrastructure which has to be refurbished and staffed and equipped so that we can encourage our scientists.

“Our best scientists and experts are outside this country and what we need is to create the best environment for them to do better back home”, Idris charged.

He noted that the state government deliberately set up a research fund as a way to stimulate research saying, “In most countries abroad, it is not government as such that funds research; this is driven mostly by the private sector with government only creating avenue for it”.