Observers note that the theme of this year’s World Malaria Day, “ Invest in the future. Defeat malaria’’, is full of messages, while the messages are full of expectations.
Medical experts describe malaria as a preventable and treatable infectious disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes.
They say malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bite of mosquitoes.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors’’, which bite people mainly between dusk and dawn.
“ The intensity of transmission depends on factors relating to the parasite, the vector, the human host and the environment.
“Transmission also depends on climatic conditions that may affect the number and survival of mosquitoes such as rainfall patterns, temperature and humidity.
“In many places, transmission is seasonal, with the peak during and just after the rainy season,’’ says the 2014 World Malaria Report of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
There are four species of the parasite that causes malaria in humans and these are Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale.
“Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most common, while Plasmodium falciparum is also the most deadly.
“ The disease kills more than one million people each year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is the leading cause of the death of children under the age of five years,’’ the WHO report says.
The report also indicates that in 2013, malaria caused an estimated 584, 000 deaths worldwide, affecting mostly children in Africa, where a child dies every minute from malaria.
Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, the Executive Secretary, FCT Primary Health Care Board, says that malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease which afflicts humans.
He says that the disease is widespread in tropical and sub-tropical regions, including Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The disease results from the multiplication of malaria parasites within the red blood cells, causing symptoms which typically include fever, headache and weakness of the joints.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
“In children, the commonest symptom is abdominal pain and fever,” he says.
Mohammed says that if malaria is not treated within 24 hours with potent anti-malaria drugs such Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT), it could lead to cerebral malaria, which is a more complicated form of malaria.
He insists that children who are less than five years old and pregnant women are more vulnerable to malaria infection.
The economic costs of the disease are quite great, as Mohammed notes that the manpower loss because of malaria is the region of N240 billion.
The executive secretary, therefore, advises the citizens to maintain personal and environmental hygiene to rid the country of malaria.
He, however, notes that government at all levels and partners have done so much to control malaria in the country via the distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide Nets.
Corroborating Mohammed’s viewpoint, Dr Nnenna Ezeigwe, the National Coordinator of National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), says that malaria “is responsible for 60 per cent out-patient visits to health facilities across the country.
“It is also responsible for 30 per cent of childhood deaths, 25 per cent of deaths of children under the age of one and 11 per cent of maternal deaths in Nigeria,’’ she says.
Ezeigwe says the annual financial loss due to malaria is estimated to be N132 billion, adding that this includes disease treatment costs, disease prevention costs and loss of man-hours.
According to her, Nigeria needs about 500 million U.S. dollars to win the war against malaria.
“If acquired, the money would be used for Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), larviciding and other environmental management interventions already put in place by the NMEP.
“IRS is an intervention that involves spraying the living spaces with a chemical that lingers for about six months. Any mosquito that comes in contact with the chemical within that period will die,” she says.
Ezeigwe says Nigeria needs IRS as an pragmatic alternative to the Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLIN), adding, however, that “ our partners decided to help us with LLIN because the nets are cheaper.
“As a country we must take our destiny into our hands; we must commit the required resources to free our citizens from the scourge of malaria,’’ she says.
Ezeigwe reiterates that the government and other stakeholders should make concerted efforts to control malaria in Nigeria as it is the number one public health problem.
“The global focus is on elimination of the disease but the funding of efforts to eliminate malaria in Nigeria is still very poor.
“We need extra commitment of the government, in terms of committing domestic resources to take up those interventions which our partners are not interested in implementing such as IRS and Larvicides.
“We must execute the two schemes before we can eliminate malaria in Nigeria,’’ she says.
Nevertheless, Ezeigwe appeals to all Nigerians to take maximum advantage of LLIN, insisting that the usage of the treated nets in the country is still below 47 per cent.
As part of efforts to draw global attention to the menace of malaria and the strategies put in place to contain it, the WHO has designated April 25 each year as World Malaria Day.
As the world celebrates World Malaria Day this year, the WHO has called for high-level commitment from all countries across the world toward attaining the vision of a world free of malaria.
This theme of the 2015 world Malaria Day is “ Invest in the future. Defeat malaria”, and the theme aptly reflects the goals and targets set out by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership in its draft post-2015 strategy.
“The new strategy aims to reduce malaria cases and deaths by 90 per cent by 2030 from current levels.
“Four countries have been certified free of malaria in the last decade and the post-2015 strategy sets the goal of eliminating the disease from a further 35 countries by 2030,’’ the partnership says.
Observers say that World Malaria Day presents an opportunity to highlight advances already made in malaria prevention and control efforts, while making additional commitments toward continued investments and actions in the fight against the disease.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership confirms that 64 out of 97 countries are now on track in efforts to meet the specific Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aimed at reversing malaria incidence by 2015.
The President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Sam Kutesa, says that more investment and stronger coordination have helped the international community to make significant inroads in the global fight against malaria.
He, however, insists that continued investment for the achievement of malaria control and elimination targets is very essential for a post-2015 future.
“Together, we have already made huge strides in our efforts to combat this preventable and treatable disease.
“Nevertheless, there is still more work to be done to achieve a world free of malaria.
“To reach our goals, we must have sustained investments and political commitments for malaria control and elimination,’’ he says.
All in all, experts say that although effective tools to prevent and treat malaria already exist, more funds are urgently required to make the tools available to the people who need them.
They also underscore the need to combat emerging drug resistant forms of malaria parasite and insecticide resistant mosquitoes. (NANFeatures)