It is alarmingly worrisome the number of deaths recorded annually from malaria-related illnesses. Statistics however show that no fewer than 3.3 billion people, which is half of the world’s population are at risk of malaria. For instance, Nigeria is particularly badly hit by the malaria scourge. The statistics tell the grim, shocking story. About 40 percent of the entire population, which translates to roughly 80 million people experience an attack of malaria at least twice a year, while about 80 percent of the population is exposed to the disease. It also accounts for about 60 percent of all hospital out-patients, and is responsible for 30 per cent and 11 percent of mortality in children under the age of five and pregnant women in the country, respectively. In economic terms, Nigeria loses about $3billion annually in treatment, prevention and loss of man-hours. No other disease in the country is this deadly and costly.
This frightening statistics also shows that a child under five years of age dies every 30 minutes in Nigeria from malaria-related diseases. This translates to about 300,000 deaths annually. Also that about 63 percent of all hospital attendance in Nigeria and 70 percent of illnesses in five-year olds is malaria related. This worrisome statistics also shows that there are over 110 million clinically diagnosed cases of malaria in Nigeria, out of which 300,000 children die.
Undoubtedly, this revelation calls for a national health emergency and the reason why every effort should be geared towards tackling this disturbing scourge. We as a nation cannot hold claim to be making progress in the healthcare delivery sector while hundreds of thousands of our children are dying from avoidable sicknesses. And when the rate of malaria-induced morbidity affecting adults is added to this figure, the picture would be worse.
It is widely believed that the country has one of the worst healthcare delivery systems in Africa. But the basic truth for the high prevalence of malaria in our clime could be attributed to a direct consequence of poorly managed healthcare system and the effects of mass poverty in the society.
Pathetically, the much-taunted anti-malaria control programmes initiated by the Federal Government seems not to be recording the expected success. Therefore, we urge the various state governments to adopt more vibrant and proactive malaria management programmes. Firstly, by ensuring a free malaria treatment for the most vulnerable groups including pregnant women and children under-five years of age. Interestingly, the federal government has gone a step further by subsidising malaria drugs through its collaboration with the Global Health Fund. Secondly, let the national malaria programme be reviewed and new strategies on the best way to tackle the disease be properly defined.
But amidst this grim picture, worldwide, the battle against malaria has been picking up steam lately, may be slower than the expectation of a weary world, but still something to be cheerful about. According to World Health Organisation, WHO report on the disease, “in the last ten years,” growing political commitment at country, regional and international levels have resulted in about one-third reduction of the disease in Africa.” This is no doubt a significant achievement, considering the difficulty in tracking and apprehending this wily foe that has the uncommon ability to stay one step ahead of its hunters.
While we appreciate the fact that the Federal Government has a national malaria control strategy under its Roll Back Malaria programme, it is painful to note that the programme is not replicated at the states and local government levels. The result is that the people at the grassroots are excluded and this is where most of the recorded deaths occur.
Therefore, for the programme to be more effective, the states and local governments should have effective malaria control programmes. And let the government concentrate more on curative rather than preventive measures. For instance, except in a few states where the issue of environmental sanitation is taken seriously, the rest of the population lives under poor environmental conditions. Poor housing conditions with filthy drains and dirty surroundings provide breeding grounds for the vector mosquitoes that spread malaria. There is no environmental fumigation programme anywhere in the country to kill mosquito larvae.
To get majority of the population out of the malaria scourge, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) should be made functional and effective; easy access to malaria drugs, which the subsidy is expected to enhance, should also be made possible. In general, the fight against malaria should receive more official attention than is currently the case. That way, the present unsavoury situation would be reversed.


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