Worsening malaria scourge

Fri Jun 3rd, 2022 - Abuja (FCT)

This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave a damning verdict on Nigeria’s anti-malaria war. It indicated that malaria cases would continue to increase in the country because of the government’s poor funding of the fight. Speaking in Yola, Adamawa State, during a media engagement on Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) campaign held under the auspices of the WHO, the National Consultant on Malaria Emergencies in Nigeria, Dr. Ini Abasi Nglass, said that 90 per cent of the schemes deployed against the epidemic in the country were sponsored by donor agencies. According to him, malaria cases are low in other countries by virtue of budgetary adequacy. Nglass said: “Donor agencies have their limits; they cannot do everything for a country. Other countries need their assistance too.”

There is no disputing the fact that Nigeria’s anti-malaria war has been driven largely by donor agencies and private initiatives. The fact of private initiative, regardless of the profit motive, was in fact recently borne out by the collaboration between Retail Supermarkets Nigeria (RSN) Limited, owners of Shoprite in Nigeria, and Mortein Insecticide, a product of Reckitt Nigeria, to drive nationwide awareness on malaria prevention. With the partnership, Mortein and Shoprite aim to unite 206 million Nigerians in the battle against malaria.

As we noted in December last year, the statistics released by the WHO in respect of global malaria infections and associated mortalities in 2020 were frightening, as the figures belied local and international efforts and collaborations to fight the scourge. Of the 627,000 deaths attributed to malaria infections worldwide in 2020, four African countries were reported to have contributed half of the number, with children under the age of five accounting for 80 per cent of estimated deaths in the region. And Nigeria alone accounted for a whopping 31.9 per cent of the total deaths associated with malaria infections worldwide in 2020.

As we noted, this disproportionately high percentage made the country the jurisdiction that recorded the highest number of lives lost to malaria infections not only in Africa but also in the world in 2020. Worse still, the picture promises to remain the same in the interim. For instance, in April this year, there were 289,957 cases of malaria recorded at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, alone. Malaria accounted for 70 per cent of outpatient visits, 40 per cent of admissions with a total of 389,957 cases reported, and a malaria prevalence rate of 35.4 per cent, according to the Mandate Secretary, Health and Human Service Secretariat (HHSS), Dr. Abubakar Tafida.

If malaria remains a big killer in Nigeria, it is because the government is a big embarrassment. Indeed, while relying on the generosity of international organisations and philanthropists in malaria prevention, Nigerian politicians have often managed to defeat their (donors’) objectives through corruption. This is the perpetual case with mosquito nets meant to be distributed for free to millions of households. More often than not, they are diverted and commercialised, leaving the people at the mercy of malaria-induced diseases and death. It is a shame that in addition to being the global capital of open defecation, Nigeria continues to bear the highest burden of malaria globally.

It is time governments at all levels changed the narrative. They should redouble efforts to tackle the scourge. In particular, they should address corruption in the mosquito net distribution chain and in the management of donor funds. In addition, they should commit funds into anti-malaria schemes and ensure proper supervision and monitoring. The seeming conference between Nigerians and mosquitoes has to end, and very quickly too.




source: Tribune