11th June, 2012
The malaria scourge has continued to decimate human population in spite of the advancement in medicine. According to statistics, at least 350,000 people are killed globally by malaria every year. The disease also takes a very huge toll on Nigeria which loses N130 billion yearly to it through infection, control and treatment.
Nigeria alone accounts for 20 percent of Africa’s malaria burden and the disease is responsible for 30 percent of infant mortality in the country. This startling revelation was made by Usman Tahir, the director general of the Jigawa State Gunduma Health System Board during activities marking the World Malaria Day held on 7 June this year.
Malaria also accounts for 30 percent of patients admitted into Nigerian hospitals. Even as it appears there is not let up in the battle against the deadly disease, it continues to wreak havoc. Infants and expectant mothers are the most vulnerable victims. Though more Nigerians are being encouraged to use insecticide-treated malaria nets, we are yet to feel the impact of it as many people still come down with malaria quite often. This is underscored by the fact that Nigeria has the highest cases of malaria worldwide.
Many anti-malaria drugs no longer cure the disease as it appears that plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria has developed resistance to them. Those who adulterate malaria drugs are not helping matters either.
The picture painted by Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, about the scourge is so scary that concerted efforts to combat the endemic disease must be sustained. He said during the 2012 World Malaria Day with the apt theme ‘Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest In Malaria’ that 90 percent of Nigeria’s 167 million people are at risk. It then means the 47 million long lasting insecticide nets distributed to 30 states are enough. What could be more worrisome than this?
Various initiatives to contain the disease, such as Roll Back Malaria Partnership, Presidential Malaria Initiative, National Malaria Programme, etc., are steps in the right direction. But they have not been effective. The government and its agencies should go beyond sloganeering and take the battle to all the nooks and crannies of the country.
The insecticide-treated nets distributed free of charge to pregnant women and nursing mothers are not enough to go round. More nets should be provided especially in rural areas where the scourge is more prevalent. The cost for a family-size net which is about N4,500 – N5,000 should be subsidised by the government to make it more affordable for low income earners. The net should also be designed in such a way that it will not cause excessive heat as being experienced by its users. This is one of the main reasons those who have it don’t like using it, thus defeating the purpose of its supply.
The high cost of some effective anti-malaria drugs has equally undermined the war against the disease. The government should also subsidise the prices and make the drugs available.