“We agree with World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication’s latest call for increased political commitment to eradicating malaria. We cannot ignore malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, etc at the expense of COVID-19. All the diseases are deadly killers. Government at all levels should give both necessary, if not equal attention”
Nigerians knew all along that the country’s health sector stinks and it is a sad tale. Then there COVID-19 also exposed the ugly situation; however, it took the recent industrial action by medical workers to highlight its deeper rot. Nigerians are being killed cheaply by headaches, feverish conditions, and malaria-related diseases. For instance, a recent report about the resurgence of malaria-related deaths in the country strikes an ominous chord, and authorities should pay keen attention.
Besides malaria, experts and relevant stakeholders have been raising concerns on the fact that since the advent of COVID-19, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and other communicable diseases are spreading so high in the country with little or minimal attention from relevant quarters. In other words, the attention of national authorities and advocacy groups has radically shifted from the above killer diseases that have been cutting lives short in the country. There have been repeated warnings to the effect that unless governments at all levels devise multiple approaches in tackling the health challenges, more fatalities would be recorded from non-COVID-19 diseases in the country.
For instance, raising this alarm, a group known as Malaria Consortium made up of medical experts told newsmen in Kaduna that based on the results of tests it conducted in five local governments in the state, it found out that more people die of malaria compared to the number of those killed by COVID-19. According to the report, many people are afraid of going for medical treatment at hospitals for fear of being diagnosed with COVID-19 because the symptoms of the two diseases are similar. Besides, there is a lack of public awareness of this development as a result of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaria is one of the most popular tropical diseases in Africa that has been causing sorrows in homes and communities.
The high rate of death on malaria-related diseases orchestrated by mosquito bites, as the new report by the World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication shows, is very disturbing indeed. This unacceptable report has called for an increased political commitment to ensuring an end to malaria in the world and in Nigeria specifically. WHO defines malaria as a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Though the pandemic is preventable and curable, WHO estimates that 438,000 people died because of malaria in 2015, while the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) puts the global burden of the disease at 620,000 in 2017.
Regrettably, most victims of the malaria pandemic are children. According to data from WHO, 57% of malaria fatalities are children younger than 5 years old. The statistics further averred that malaria is one of the leading causes of child mortality as every twelfth child that died in 2017 died because of malaria thus requiring urgent action from relevant authorities. Out of the estimated 219 million cases of malaria in 87 countries according to a 2017 report, the ‘African Region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. The region was home to 92% of malaria cases and 93% of malaria deaths,’ the report further revealed.
It is unfortunate that Nigeria has the highest prevalence among the five countries that accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide. The countries are Nigeria (25%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), Mozambique (5%), India (4%), and Uganda (4%). According to the report, “Children under 5 years of age are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in 2017, they accounted for 61% (266 000) of all malaria deaths worldwide”, WHO said. However, total funding for malaria control and elimination reached an estimated US$ 3.1 billion in 2017.
Contributions from governments of endemic countries amounted to US$ 900 million, representing 28% of total funding. Nigeria is in a precarious situation with the highest prevalence in the global index. In tackling malaria, it is therefore important to follow the prescription by the World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication report which stated that, “There must be an increased domestic and external resources, as well as increased political commitment and fast-tracking of new tools and innovations.
“Making better use of data and surveillance, and a strong health system, important components of the WHO and RBM Partnership High Burden to High Impact approach. We must also ensure that the lifesaving tools we do have, such as insecticide-treated nets, are reaching everyone who needs them”, the UN body stated. We agree with the World Health Organisation Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication’s latest call for increased political commitment to eradicating malaria. We cannot ignore malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/ AIDS, etc at the expense of COVID-19. All the diseases are deadly killers. The government at all levels should give both necessary, if not equal, attention.
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