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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Nigeria evaluates tactics in combatting malaria

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To improve Nigeria’s fight against malaria morbidity and mortality, Nigeria’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Friday hosted key health players and experts to reevaluate its approach and strategies.

The event themed: “Ministerial Roundtable Meeting: Rethinking Malaria Elimination in Nigeria,” featured representatives from national and international health organisations, who analysed the country’s anti-malaria strategies over the past years.

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Over the years, Nigeria has made continuous attempts to reduce its malaria burden to zero, however, the country still has the highest burden of malaria globally.

According to the 2022 World Malaria Report, Nigeria contributes about 27 per cent of the global burden of the disease, and about 31.3 per cent of deaths, the largest globally.

Experts speak

Recommending new approaches to fighting the epidemic, stakeholders and experts present at the event urged the government to reduce its dependence on external funding and improve government financing.

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According to them, Nigeria needs to accelerate its effort to eliminate malaria by increasing the funds allocated to the malaria elimination programme annually.

A Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Soji Adeyi, said Nigeria should begin to increase internal funding for malaria elimination.

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“Each year, reliance on external funding needs to be reduced. I looked at the summary of malaria reports from 2008 till now and what has been common is the complaint about the lack of funding. If this is a recurring problem what should be done is to find a new approach,” he said.

Similarly, Abdu Muktar, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Healthcare Initiative, called for the local production and manufacturing of medical supplies and for reducing the country’s dependence on drug imports.

According to him, the local production of anti-malaria and related medication will consider the peculiarity of the country’s terrain, population, and burden and will improve access to effective treatment.

Data relevance

The Regional Director of the WHO African Region, Matshidiso Moeti, advised the country to accelerate its efforts to end malaria by relying on adequate data for the implementation of health policies.

She urged the Nigerian authorities to increase data availability and access for the government agencies at national and subnational levels, and also for the use of the public.

Ms Moeti maintained that Nigeria must invest in data to get a clear understanding of the health issues in its rural communities

She said: “For Nigeria to accelerate its efforts, it needs to invest more in data from local communities across the country to know exactly what is going on there.

“We need to be sure that the data we have is viable, so we need to invest, starting from the local level. This will improve efficiency and reduce fragmentation.

“We have technology today that can help us improve some of the ways we are dealing with data in the health sector. We can use data to identify the location that needs intervention. This calls for collective intervention.”

Some of the stakeholders suggested that the country should improve its leadership and coordination to efficiently capture every corner of the country burdened by mosquito-borne disease.

According to the Director of Public Health, Chukwuma Ayandike, Nigeria, with proper coordination and leadership, will be able to achieve its target of zero malaria.

What we are doing- Minister

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Mohammed Pate, said more needs to be done to fight malaria in the country.

He said the country is deploying tools that are available, safe, and effective for the population to improve their health.

Mr Pate said: “This is in line with the president’s agenda. We intend to deploy all tools that can control the spread of malaria; we intend to deploy nets, testing, and treatments of malaria. We also intend to provide affordable antimalarial drugs”.

Mr Pate further disclosed that the government also intends to use political and traditional leaders and private sector leaders in the fight against malaria in remote parts of the country.

“The country also needs to prioritise the use of a driven approach to accelerate progress, as well as better financing and better partnership to eliminate malaria with private organisations,” the minister added.

Malaria in Nigeria

Malaria transmission within the country is high and even higher in rural communities situated by the banks of major rivers and water bodies.

The disease is caused by tiny parasites called Plasmodium, often found in mosquitoes.

When an infected mosquito bites a person, it transfers these parasites into the bloodstream. The parasites then travel to the liver and multiply. After a few days, they reenter the bloodstream and infect red blood cells, causing the symptoms of malaria, such as fever, chills, and flu-like illness.

The National Malaria Elimination Programme(NMEP) reported that Malaria accounts for 60 per cent of outpatient visits to health facilities across the country and 30 per cent of childhood deaths.

Globally, there are an estimated 249 million malaria cases and 608,000 malaria deaths among 85 countries.

The African region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden.

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