Malaria Eradication in Nigeria: A home Affair

Malaria is a severe and occasionally deadly disease caused by a parasite that infects certain species of mosquitoes that bite human beings. Typical symptoms of malaria include high fevers, shaking chills, headaches, tiredness, muscle aches etc. Malaria mainly affects those living in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.

There are four kinds of the malaria parasite that infect humans: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. P. falciparum is the most lethal form of malaria. It can lead to death if not treated immediately. The vector of the malaria is the female Anopheles mosquito. There are currently over 100 countries battling malaria including Nigeria.

Malaria is no respecter of class or status. Anyone can get malaria. People who live in malaria endemic countries/ regions are bound to be easily infected. A person (for instance, a tourist) who visits a malaria endemic region may get infected via severe and repeated mosquito bites. An infected pregnant woman can transmit malaria to her unborn child before or during delivery.

With the widespread transmission of malaria, many affected countries have stepped up the fight against this deadly disease. In the past 10 years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has certified five countries as having eliminated malaria. These countries include the United Arab Emirates in 2007, Morocco and Turkmenistan in 2010, Armenia in 2011 and Maldives as recently as 2015.

Malaria elimination tools include:

Distribution of insecticide-treated netsIndoor  residual spraying of  insecticidesRapid diagnostic testingArtemisinin-based combination therapies.

These tools in conjunction with effective policing and adequate funding have helped ensure that countries like Morocco, Maldives etc. were able to beat the dreaded disease, malaria.

In Nigeria, many of the patients who die from contracting malaria are children under the age of 5 and pregnant women. Malaria is believed to contribute about 25 percent of infant mortality and 11 percent of maternal mortality in Nigeria. At the 2016 world’s malaria day event, Oguzhan Siliviri, an anti-malaria advocate put the total figures of death from malaria at 300,000 annually. Siliviri said pregnant women and young children made up a large percent of those affected.

In 2010, Nigeria reported the highest number of malaria deaths in the world. Many organisations and Government have partnered with the Nigerian Government in a bid to tackle the malaria epidemic. As of 2014, Nigeria has received over $250 million in funding to prevent, treat and eradicate malaria from the Global Fund, World Bank, USAID/PMI, WHO/UNICEF and other organisations.

Some of the contributing factors to the rapid spread and incidence of the malaria parasite in Nigeria is the weather and lack of proper drainage systems. It has been reported that malaria cases peaked during the wet season in Nigeria and sharply declined in the dry season.

Proper sanitary practices, as well as drainages, will go a long way in reducing the incidence of malaria in Nigeria. Disposing of our refuse properly rather than dumping them in our various waterways will prevent our drainages and canals from becoming mosquito breeding grounds.

Also, sleeping under treated nets and spraying our homes with insecticides will help reduce the malaria cases as well as deaths caused by malaria in Nigeria. Going to the hospital immediately you fall sick will help doctors and other health practitioners save your life. The cases of P. falciparum are high in Nigeria. Early detection and prompt treatments will save lives.

As much as outside organisations like WHO, UNICEF, USAID etc. are trying to help in the fight against malaria, if we do not pitch in and do our parts as Nigerians, malaria will not be eradicated in our nation.

© 2020 Herbert O. Wigwe