The Malaria Scourge In Nigeria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Malaria Scourge In Nigeria

Posted: May 4, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


The recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which excluded Nigeria from six countries in Africa that

could be malaria free by 2020 is quite disturbing and calls for urgent attention by the government to re-evaluate its malaria control programmes, with a view to eliminating the disease by the end of the decade.

The report, which came out on Monday last week, revealed that only 21 countries had the potential of wiping out malaria in their respective domains by the end of this decade. Of particular interest to us is that the six countries in Africa capable of eliminating Malaria fever include Algeria Botswana Cape Verde, Comoros, South Africa and Swaziland. Nigeria, regarded as Africa’s most populous country was nowhere mentioned in the WHO report.

While the report is worrisome, this Newspaper nevertheless believes the country could still achieve the same feat like others mentioned if the government aggressively pursues its malaria control strategies. There is no gain saying that despite the various efforts by successive governments and Non-governmental Organisation (NGO’s), malaria infections continue to ravage the country.

While Nigeria’s population is estimated about 160 million, a great percentage lives in extreme poverty in rural areas without access to portable water and adequate health care. In some cases where there are health centres, hardly could one find accessible roads to the centers. Some of these centres are poorly equipped and have inadequate drugs for malaria treatment. Indeed drug resistant malaria seems to be common and anti-malaria drugs are gradually becoming less effective as the parasites develop resistance to the drugs.

In the absence of effective drugs for malaria, most Nigerians have resorted to self-medication with local herbs. Of course, this situation poses a serious threat to clinical management and treatment of malaria in the country.

It is instructive to note that as malaria incidences increase, so also would morbidity and mortality rates. And the population at the highest risk includes children, pregnant women and those not immune. Obviously these catastrophes equally come with economic losses to the nation. For a Nation, which has a low income and a huge foreign debt, it may continue to sink further into debts as it struggles with a sick populace whose good health is essential for its economic growth.

That is why the current administration must take a critical look at health issues in the country. Perhaps, the government needs to increase the allocation to the health sector in its budget. Not a few medical experts believe that successive governments’ poor allocation to the health sector in the budgets is not unconnected to increase in the severity of diseases like malaria and poor health outcomes.

Besides, government needs to address the issues of increasing urbanisation disproportionate to infrastructure, drug resistant malaria, insecticide resistant mosquitoes and public health practices, which are considered to be some of the fundamental factors responsible for the increase in the resurgence of malaria in the country. There must also be accessibility to public health care centres and the government must guarantee their affordability.

In addition, units within the primary health care centres should be set up by the government to diagnose, treat and monitor malaria cases. These centres must be equipped to check blood films for malaria parasites and a full blood count. Nigerians need to maintain a clean environment.

The spread of malaria needs conditions favourable to the survival of the mosquito and the plasmodium parasite. Indeed increased rainfall and stagnant pool of water provide a breeding ground for mosquito. But a trusted method of controlling the mosquito is to spray the breeding sites with insecticides.

But more fundamental is the need for government to embark on campaigns for enlightenment on malaria prevention.

Given the fact that malaria is one of the most deadly diseases confronting the world today, and as a matter of fact WHO estimates that over 300 million new cases of malaria come up every year, the  Nigerian government must address this scourge with the seriousness it deserves. Surely the country can still achieve the goal of malaria free society by the end of the decade through adequate and sustained efforts on the part of the government and stakeholders. We believe it is possible if all hands are on deck and the country attacks the scourge the way it did to the Ebola virus. Nigeria can, and should do it.