Malaria still highest disease killer in Nigeria – Nwapa
By Ifeoma Ikem
The convener #EndMalariaInNigeria, Mr Francis Nwapa Watch says Malaria has remained a huge Public Health challenge and the highest killer disease in Nigeria.
Nwapa said this in a press statement to commemorate the 2023 world malaria Day which is being celebrated every April 25.
He said that with over 10 million cases and 200,000 deaths annually, amount to about 31.9% of the global Malaria indices, malaria elimination interventions in Nigeria are necessary.
He called on the federal government to put in more efforts in the fight against mosquitos if we must deliver zero malaria across the nation.
“#EndMalariaInNigeria commend the efforts and interventions so far made by various groups, individuals and government agencies over the years towards malaria elimination in Nigeria.
“It is in recognition of this that we have in the last one year advocated a redirection in the methods of intervention from curative to preventive’’.
Nwapa said that it is worrisome that the Nigeria Vaccine Development Laboratory that was active for about six decades, between 1940 and 1991, producing large quantities of vaccines against smallpox, rabies, yellow fever for not only Nigeria, but neighbouring countries like Cameroon, Central Africa and a few other countries in Africa has remain dormant.
“Though it was closed in 1991 by the federal government which said it wanted to reactivate and upgrade the facility, its resuscitation has remained a mirage. A once viable Laboratory has been abandoned to donor funding.
‘Similarly, the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) established for scientific research in Biochemistry and Nutrition, Virology Vaccinology, Immunology, Health system and policy research, Reproductive, Maternal and Childhood diseases Research, Clinical Science, Microbiology, Molecular biology Biotechnology and public Health has also remained underfunded by government and left to donor funding’’.
He enumerated some of the challenges that have hindered the fight against elimination of Malaria in Nigeria as follow.
“The use of IPT, prophylaxis and distribution of ITNs to pregnant women has helped in reducing malaria mortality among pregnant women in some regions of the country when compared to previous records, however certain factors have limited the effectiveness of these methods.
“Most rural Nigeria women due to lack of education are still attached to some cultural and religious beliefs that dissuade them from taking these treatments.
“The poor housing system with no ventilation compounded with epileptic power supply is a discouraging factor for not using distributed insecticide treated nets (ITNs).
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“Underfunded up malaria vaccine development laboratory and Nigeria institute of medical research still a major problem’’.
He recalled that recently, Nigeria and Ghana approved the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine produced by Oxford University which is an improved version of the RTS,S vaccine that has already been approved by the WHO.
“Also recall that 252 Days after the inauguration of Dangote led Nigeria Malaria Elimination Council, nothing significant has been heard of the council inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari to mobilize resources towards the fight against malaria.
“Just as our organization stated when it was inaugurated that it was a “wild goose chase and a business for the big boys” we have been vindicated.
“From similar failed efforts like the Role Back Malaria program in 1998, initiated and funded by international organizations like WHO, UNDP, etc, such Council will fail in achieving its aim’’.
He further said that preventive intervention is required to deliver zero malaria in the country.
“Malaria resurgence will remain a persistent threat until the disease is eradicated altogether. We need to keep up the momentum but more importantly hold the gains.
“With sustained funding, rapid progress towards ending malaria deaths can be obtained, but without it, gains could be quickly reversed putting millions of lives at risk”.
“Malaria is transmitted by an infected female anopheles mosquito, and it goes through complete metamorphosis.
He used the occasion of World Malaria Day 2023 to call on the Nigerian government to immediately mobilize Environmental health professionals in coming up with National environmental health and water management plan that will address drainages, construction of sanitary landfills and dams as a direct process of fighting mosquitos in Nigeria.
“Government should also invest in primary health care and improve remuneration for health workers, adequately fund Nigeria vaccine development laboratory, Nigeria Institute of medical research.
“We also call on government to open and adequately fund research centres in the Universities across the nation.
“We use this occasion to call on international organizations to renew commitment and efforts in ending malaria in Nigeria through partnership with organizations like the #EndMalariaInNigeria in combating malaria in Nigeria’.
He said that Nigeria can attain a malaria-free status. A country is granted malaria-free certification by WHO when the country proves that it has interrupted indigenous transmission of the disease for at least 3 consecutive years.
“If African countries like Lesotho, Mauritius, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, LA Reunion, Seychelles, Tunisia have been declared malaria free, then Nigeria can put an end to the over 200,000 malaria mortality annually.