Ibrahim’s case is just one of out of the millions of cases of malaria infection in Nigeria. Malaria is one of the world’s most insidious killer diseases and is responsible for the death of up to 2.7 million people in the world per annum. The World Health Organisation says much of these deaths occur in Africa, where over 800,000 children die per annum. In Nigeria, malaria is a major public health problem, recording about three million reported cases of death with more than a million of those cases among children under the age of five.The disorder is the cause of almost 25 percent of infant deaths and 30 percent of childhood mortality cases in the country. The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics reveal that a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. In 2006, no fewer than 247 million cases of malaria were reported, causing about 880,000 deaths, mostly among Africans. Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, particularly those living in lower-income countries, like Nigeria.
Statistics made available to this medium from Philips Pharmaceutical Nigeria Limited reveals that in Nigeria, malaria is responsible for the deaths of close to 300,000 children annually especially as it causes 30% (that is 3 in of 10) of the deaths in under five and 28%(close to 3 in 10) of the death in infants. This makes malaria the most important cause of death and disability in children under five in the country.
In the same vein, a health non-governmental organisation, NGO, Community Health and Development Advisory (COHDAT), maintained that it kills about 300,000 Nigerians yearly. Of this figure, the group said 821 die daily and 34 every hour.
Nigeria is also categorised as one of the countries yet to record any significant improvement in child survival in the last 40 years. Compared to other countries, Nigeria had a mere 10 per cent reduction in under-five mortality rate in the last 40 years, a figure that is lower than those of Ghana, Cameroon and Kenya, which achieved 53 per cent, 40 per cent and 42 per cent reduction respectively. With several alarming statistics emanating from different quarters around the globe, it therefore becomes obvious that the disease constitutes an enormous danger to the socio-economic development of the nation. For instance, findings by this medium show that malaria impact on the development of the country as it caused death, reduces human work capacity and productivity in all sectors. it is also responsible for high rate of absenteeism amongst school children, a warning signal that the disease constitutes a great burden on the already depressed Nigerian economy.
Abraham Ideyen a medical doctor at the Holy Cross Hospital, Abuja told Sunday Trust that “the fight against the malaria debacle is even compounded by the mental attitude of most Nigerians. In the course of my medical practice, I have discovered that many patients tend to under estimate the harmful effects of this disease, hence when people start manifesting symptoms, they will prefer to patronise road side chemists which only worsen the situation. But consider a scenario where the same patient is diagnosed of tuberculosis or even Hiv/AIDS, the level of reaction would be different.”
According to facts made available by the federal ministry of health, malaria is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, especially among vulnerable groups including women and children aged less than five years. The incidence of malaria among the under fives across the six geographical zones during a recent study by the ministry of health shows as follow: South-South: 32.7%, South West: 36.6%, South East: 30.7%, North Central: 58.8%, North East: 55.3% and North West,33.6%
It is instructive to note that the war against malaria in Nigeria has been a long and arduous one. On April 25th 2000, Nigeria hosted a Summit Meeting of African Heads of State, with the set targets for action to tackle malaria. It focused on actions to increase the impact of malaria control, through partnerships, to “Roll Back Malaria”. Working closely with heads of development agencies and in co-operation with the World Health Organisation, WHO, it was agreed that Heads of State will demonstrate their political commitment to this intensified effort. Roll Back Malaria is committed to a halving in the world’s malaria burden by the year 2010. They also set aside April 25th of every year to be commemorated as Africa Malaria Day, AMD, with the theme of each year’s observation being set upon a particular issue that requires political and popular support for the RBM to achieve its full impact. Following the launching of the RBM programme in Nigeria, in partnership with several international bodies such as the UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank, malaria prevention and control in Nigeria gained prominence but statistic continue to show that the deadly scourge is on the increase, especially with Nigerians without basic health facilities.
At this year’s commemoration of the Africa Malaria Day, minister of health, Professor Babatunde Oshotimehin stated that as part of the government’s efforts to stem the tide of malaria in the country, Federal Government will, in the next 12 months, give each household in Nigeria two insecticide-treated nets as part of efforts to combat malaria in the country. The minister stated that 61 million nets would be distributed to about 31 million households in the country. He said, “We are placing two mosquito nets in every household in Nigeria. These are not just the traditional mosquito nets as we used to know it. They are long lasting nets that have been treated with insecticides.”
According to him, the programme involves the placement of over 61million nets into about 31million households in Nigeria. Osotimehin, who did not give the cost of the programme, stated that it would be funded by the government and development partners.
He added, “The resources we require from the government are available. Very importantly also is the goodwill and support of our development partners. This is also a direct result of the confidence they have in us to deliver.”
According to him, the nets have been treated with insecticides. He explained that they would not only repel mosquitoes, but also kill them.
The minister stated, ”The nets are special and very efficacious in tracking down and killing mosquitoes. They are called long lasting insecticidal nets. They are products of new technologies.”
In his reaction, secretary General of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Kenneth Okoro lauded the government’s intervention in the quest to frontally combat malaria but stressed that more can still be done especially in terms of making these drugs available to the folks at the rural level. In his words, “while the efforts by the government and other concerned international agencies is commendable, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The government should not only make these drugs available but also ensure that the circulation and distribution are closely monitored so they don’t get into the wrong hands. It is quite unfortunate that despite the concerted efforts by the government and other stakeholders, malaria is still a major killer in Nigeria,” he submitted.