AS the world marks another World Malaria Day today, April 25, malaria remains one of the most deadly infectious diseases. Malaria is still an acute public health problem, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and especially in Nigeria, no thanks to substantial gaps in the coverage of core malaria control tools.
This year’s theme – “Ending Malaria For Good” – spotlights prevention, the cornerstone of malaria control efforts.
According to The World Malaria Report 2016, a publication of the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were 212 million malaria cases worldwide in 2015, with 21 per cent incidence reduction between 2010 and 2015, while global decrease in mortality rates was 29 per cent.
The Report notes that in 2015, an estimated 43 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa was not protected by treated nets or indoor spraying with insecticides, the primary methods of malaria vector control, while 36 per cent of children with fever were not taken to health facilities for care in these African countries.
While there has been progress and appreciable gains in malaria control and prevention, the work is incomplete.
Millions still lack access to the essential tools they need to prevent and treat the disease. In many instances, progress is threatened by the rapid development and spread of mosquito resistance to insecticides and anti-malarial drug resistance is another major hindrance in the efforts to eliminate the disease.
Funding shortfalls and fragile health systems still undermine overall progress, thereby jeopardising the attainment of global targets. In many countries like Nigeria, health systems are under-funded and mainly inaccessible to most of those at risk of malaria attack.
Nigeria does not appear to be on the track of being among countries working to control and eliminate malaria by year 2030, as required under the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Technical Strategy for Malaria.
For Nigeria to be listed, there must be a commitment to report fewer locally-acquired cases of malaria and progress towards other global targets must be accelerated.
The nation must be seen to be on track to achieve the 2020 milestones of 40 per cent reduction in case incidence and mortality. There must be greater investments in the development of new vector control interventions, improved diagnostics and more effective medicines.
At the general level, there must be better and more effective malaria preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures in place at the various layers of our health delivery system.
More funding is an urgent priority that must be increased substantially. The fight against malaria can be more effective with robust funding, effective programming and the country’s leadership political will.
We call on the Federal Government to drive the initiative towards ensuring that progress in combating malaria is sustained and accelerated.