It’s World Malaria Day today. A day marked down by the world to take a look at the successes achieved so far in the fight to rollback Malaria.
Responsible for over 300,000 deaths yearly in Nigeria where 25% accounts for infant mortality (children under age 1), 30% for childhood mortality (children under age 5) and 11% for maternal mortality; Malaria is highly endemic affecting particularly young children and pregnant mothers. With majority of the deaths in children ubder-5 and a high percentage of miscarriages, stillbirths, low birth weight, anaemia in pregnancy and maternal mortality caused by malaria, it makes one wonder what successes we have achieved in the fight against Malaria. Looking from the outside, one would think that Malaria was winning the fight and not the other way around with about 50% of the population having at least one of episode of malaria in a year.
Today however, is a day not to focus of the tragedies caused by malaria, although important, but a day to mark the successes achieved so far and to stress the continued importance of investing in interventions and programmes that will make Nigeria a malaria free country one day. With programmes such as the distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) in communities most afflicted by the disease, community outreach programmes where Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) are conducted and Artemisin Combination Therapy (ACT) are distributed to those who show positive for malaria, the distribution of Indoor Residual Sprays (IRS), Intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women; all targeted to reach the Nigerian population including those who live in rural communities and are too poor to afford treatment and prevention measures or even to make it to a primary healthcare facility. These programmes have shown Nigerians especially those in the rural communities on the importance of protecting themselves and their families against Malaria.
However, there have also been some setbacks during this long fight against Malaria. With some reported cases of drug-resistant malaria and most of the Nigerian population living without electricity making it too hot to sleep under the ITNs, it would seem as though we take two steps back with every step forward making one ask the question “Why not just let it go?” However, we cannot let it go and must continue to strive in this fight against Malaria.
With the recent announcement by the WHO on update “Guidelines for the treatment of Malaria” being issued this week, with latest recommendations on preventive treatment to children under-5 and pregnant women, recommendations on scaling up preventive treatments to save those with limited access to primary health care; we must also look to adopt these new recommendations as they apply to Malaria endemic countries such as ours.
As we, Nigeria, join other endemic countries in working towards elimination, our attendance at the World Health Assembly in May is much required so as to discuss the global malaria strategy for the 2016-2030 periods. We must also look to results being produced by medical science as the world’s first viable vaccine against the disease was recently announced and could be available in African countries as early as October as final trial results have confirmed the efficacy of the vaccine.Taking these steps as a country may prove to be the revolution we need to get one up on malaria.
Today is World Malaria Day and the theme is “Invest in the future, Defeat Malaria”. As we give ourselves a pat on the back for actively continuing to take basic preventive measures against Malaria; let us also remember that once is not enough. We must continually and persistently fight this disease called malaria and secure Nigeria’s future.