THE health story of an African man dwelling within the continental demography cannot be completely told without insight into his battle against malaria and his survival mechanism in dealing with the phenomenon to win the society a permanent malaria free life.
The need to eradicate malaria from human society, especially, its entrenched habitat – Africa, is heightened now than ever, given the long historical track record of its prevalence and growing challenge both to science and tradition in forcing it out of their clime.
Statistics show that malaria kills more people in Africa than the dreaded HIV-AIDS, yet not equal emergency approach is given to its control and eradication by World Health authorities like small-pox and other serious diseases that scientific approach had helped wipe out in the society.
As the United Nations celebrates ‘World Malaria Day’ today, many thought provoking issues come to the mind for pondering: Can malaria disease be eradicated? Is it preventable? How affordable could the curative process be to a victim of the attack? Can the Nigeria society stand up and stamp out malaria in her clime either through the laboratory, cultural or environmental practices to prove a point to the rest of the world? Whatever be the outcome of the answers to the prevailing questions, existence of malaria prevalence in Nigeria and indeed African countries is a reality and urgent approach needs to be deployed by authorities concerned to free the people from its menace.
This year’s theme in the United Nations’ world malaria day celebration, “End Maleria For Good”, captures the yearning for a collaborative action towards finding lasting solution to the continued challenges malaria has posed to human life, and endangered Africans the more.
World Health report shows that not much significant progress has been made in reducing malaria cases in the period between 2015 to 2017 as 435000 estimated number of deaths attributed to malaria infections as at 2017 stood at parity with previous years in terms of ratio.
Specifically, 97 percent of Nigeria’s population is at risk of malaria infection, World Health report says. It further states that there are an estimated 100 million malaria cases with over 300,000 deaths per year in Nigeria. This compares with 215,000 deaths per year in Nigeria from HIV-AIDS, while the same malaria contributes to an estimated eleven percent of maternal mortality, according to the report.
Drawing comparisons on the prevalence among continents, WHO notes that 25 per cent of malaria cases recorded worldwide are from Nigeria and that most malaria cases in 2017 were in the African region with 200 million or 92 per cent, while South-East Asia region follows in the ranks with five per cent of cases.
Alarmed by this realisation, UN has increased its call for urgent global response in frontally engaging on programmes that will remarkably halt persistent high cases of malaria in the society. UN however, made it clear that countries most affected by the scourge should lead in the campaign
Perhaps, the urgency contained in the 2019 World Malaria Day awareness call has actuated, WHO to join the African Union Commission and other concerned organisations in promoting grassroots campaign that aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilise additional resources, and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care as amplified in the “Zero Malaria Starts With Me” theme of last year and bolstered by End Maleria For Good theme of 2019, all advanced to end malaria.
Aside from these concerns expressed by world notable organisations, Nigeria may not be said to be aloof on the challenges of the time as presented by the persistent transmission of the disease. Surprisingly, even as deadly as malaria could be, it is still viewed as a common infection by significant number of people in the Nigerian climes. This could be as a result of the widespread proportion of its prevalence, but limited knowledge of statistical documentation on the part of the masses has not helped matters as it seems to undermine true number of death toll that comes with the scourge over times and as a result suppresses curiosity over the endemic menace. Though the challenge is widespread in Africa, Nigeria’s situation demands more urgent approach given the worrisome percentage of cases credited to her on the scale by experts.
WHOs 2017 survey shows five countries that accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide which Nigeria had 25 percent of the total figure. Democratic Republic of Congo followed with eleven percent, Mozambique five percent, India five and Uganda four percent respectively.
For this reason alone, Nigerian government should as a matter of urgency, holistically employ measures capable of yielding better practical results in the fight against malaria. The Roll Back malaria programme embarked on, by the Nigerian government is no doubt a pointer that efforts are ongoing in the fight, but the persistent prevalence questions the effectiveness of the programme so far, despite accompanying cost. The usual periodic vaccine exercises conducted against certain epidemic outbreaks, malaria inclusive had been helpful but more to that, communities themselves should be part of the process. Community Volunteer Groups (CVG) should be co-opted to compliment regular health workers’ input. Massive sensitisation of the masses on preventive measures against the spread of the transmission is not just necessary, but framework for unhindered permeation of the communicated messages should be a composite necessity in the chain.
In thinking about malaria control, the imperativeness of synergy of relevant agencies to make it a success cannot be undermined. In fact, health department will achieve less if environmental agencies do not live up to their responsibilities. It is a known fact that malaria cannot be stopped when and where mosquitoes thrive, but the environment could be rid of breeding convenience for mosquitoes when the will power is there to drive the course by all concerned. Findings have shown that it is not enough to merely promulgate laws but putting enacted laws into force is the major challenge. The masses may be told to beef up environmental cleanliness, but supervision is necessary to ensure compliance. Uses of disinfectants and nets harmless to human health to compliment hygiene efforts are important in this mix. But above all these, only effective communication of policies can connect the people with the bearing. Orientation should tailor towards impacting on the populace, a new self consciousness of ‘good environment for good health.’ Government and its agencies must have a clear cut policy direction understandable and practicable to the people at all times. If they set out to run preventive programme, it should accommodate all classes of the society and they should be evaluated with that within a stipulated time. Programmes aimed at affordable and effective cure with commensurate platforms that could check recurrence of ailment to already treated patients should be well articulated and categorized.
When the issue is rooting out malaria in the Nigerian society using scientific method, extensive research is important here and corresponding budget to facilitate it should not be lacking. Some opinions believe that war against malaria could be won in the laboratory, not without due respect to what traditional input could also add. Suffice it to say that surviving malaria bearing mosquitoes could still be rendered harmless if vaccines to that effect are developed to strengthen body resistance against invasion, which research can help achieve.
It is time medical experts in Nigeria demonstrated their unique character by handing the populace good hope for life without malaria. Impossible is only for the undaring minds and the earlier the project comes on board, the nearer the realisation of the big dream. Small pox is no more, same goes to leprosy, who says malaria cannot be kicked out of existence? Humanity is indeed yearning for a new order in this line and malaria is surly overstaying its welcome.