This is feedback from a regular reader, Mrs Dayo Oluwole, who was struck by malaria recently and decided to share her experience on this platform.
Her story is apt today being World Malaria Day and Nigeria being highly endemic for malaria.
Records show that malaria is a risk for 97 per cent of the population. There are estimated 100 million malaria cases with over 300,000 deaths per year in Nigeria.
The purpose of this letter is to further draw attention to the need for strengthening of existing health framework in Nigeria to ensure preventable deaths from malaria are reduced in line with global elimination targets. Read on.
Dear Minister of Health, I hope you are well. My name is Dayo Oluwole (@kasherltd), and I am one of your many followers on Twitter. You are (arguably) the most Twitter savvy Minister of Health that Nigeria has ever had.
Your open lines of communication and responsiveness in dealing with issues on social media are highly commendable. Bravo!
The purpose of this letter is an appeal to strengthen the existing health framework in Nigeria to ensure that malaria deaths are reduced. I am aware of all the work that is being done by the Ministry and funding partners to meet the 2020 target towards pre-elimination.
As I have worked with the National Malaria Elimination Programme, NMEP, and other incredible local and international partners in the demand generation space regarding malaria. As a result, I am aware of all the work that is being done by the Ministry and funding partners to meet the 2020 target towards pre-elimination.
I am one of those people who are not disturbed by malaria, until I did in the UK recently. I arrived in the UK on the 31st of March, tired, which is not unusual, but I was in good health. Getting into the taxi to go home, a slight fever started. I took medication and went straight to bed.
Saturday I was fine, but by Sunday morning, I knew something was off. I was first admitted in a hospital in Blackpool on the 1st of April, which ran tests and confirmed I had malaria.
I was later moved to North Manchester Hospital’s Infectious Disease Unit at 1am on April 2.
While I am not a medical doctor, I have a good understanding of the first line treatment and was already wondering where the medication was going to come from.
One of the registrars explained the treatment plan (which was available) and said that given my condition he wanted to repeat more tests.
Within an hour tests came back at 4.6 per cent parasitaemia. According to the UK guidelines 3 per cent was considered severe.
I realised I was extremely unwell, however, I felt completely “safe”in the hands of the unit’s team, not that I had much choice at the time.
During the few days at North Manchester hospital, the doctors and nurses focused on my clinical care and ensured that I was able to leave the hospital with 0.01 per cent parasitaemia on the 5th of April. I have never seen such an incredible team of people!
Appeal: I am unsure if severe malaria would have been picked up in Nigeria, especially given the average Nigerians’ aversion to testing before treatment and our preference to self medication. My blood pressure became dangerously low, blood sugar levels dropped and there were concerns of a build-up of fluid on my lungs.
If I was in Nigeria, I would have been given medication and sent home. Because malaria is not viewed as the deadly disease it is!
If -in line with World Malaria Day 2017 theme – we want to end malaria for good, can you please continue to ensure that policies that support testing before treatment are adhered to in Nigeria?
Can you also continue with your strategic plan and ensure that Primary Health Centres are equipped with the much needed laboratory resources to provide malaria tests in a timely manner?
I don’t pretend to begin to imagine the complexities that will go into taking action in respect of my appeal, but I feel compelled to share my story in the interest and welfare of my fellow Nigerians.
I believe that it should be everyone’s collective responsibility to ensure that the number of deaths from malaria (especially infants and children) are significantly reduced.
At the Manchester Hospital, I asked one of the nurses about malaria related deaths in the unit, she said that she has been working there for 15 years and she was not aware of anyone ever dying from malaria.
Granted, North Manchester Hospital doesn’t see anything near as many malaria cases as in Nigeria and I am not making any comparisons between the UK health system and ours, but can you as the “Doctor of the People”, lead the charge where we commit to not losing anymore Nigerians to malaria?
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, but more importantly for hopefully taking the necessary next steps to reduce deaths from malaria.
I am making this appeal on bended knees in line with our Yoruba culture, when addressing our elders! Once again, thank you for your attention in this matter.
Yours sincerely, Mrs. Dayo Oluwole.