Ahead of the World Malaria Day which is celebrated on April 25 every year, the Federal Government has declared its intention to secure $300 million (N108 billion) in new financing from the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, and African Development Bank to help eliminate the malaria scourge in Nigeria. While this commitment has generated applause, it has also raised questions about the possibility of completely stamping out the Malaria epidemic from the country.

Malaria was transmitted in the United States and much of Europe until the middle of the twentieth century, when governments launched a successful national campaigns to eliminate the disease. Before that there were about 60,000 cases in 1945.

The progress in eradicating Malaria is illustrated in this WHO chat

In Africa, the commitment, according to African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), was reached following the recent Malaria Summit, where leaders from malaria-affected countries, businesses, donors and the international community made new commitments and urged Commonwealth leaders to get ‘Ready to Beat Malaria’.

According to the statement, the commitment from the Commonwealth has the potential to prevent 350 million malaria cases and save 650,000 lives.

The United States Embassy’s Nigeria Malaria Fact Sheet holds that the Country accounts for 29% of World Malaria cases. The fact sheet also shows that Malaria affects 3.3 billion people, or half of the world’s population, in 106 countries and territories. WHO estimates 216 million cases of Malaria occurred in 2010, 81% in the African region. WHO estimates there were 655,000 Malaria deaths in 2010, 91% in the African Region, and 86% were children under 5 years of age. Malaria is the 3rd leading cause of death for children under five years worldwide, after pneumonia and diarrheal disease.

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Some Malaria Facts in Nigeria

Malaria is a major public health problem in Nigeria where it accounts for more cases of deaths than any other country in the world.

Malaria is a risk for 97% of Nigeria’s population. The remaining 3% of the population live in the Malaria free highlands.

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.

Malaria contributes to an estimated 11% of maternal mortality.

Malaria accounts for 60% of outpatient visits and 30% of hospitalizations among children under five years of age in Nigeria.

Malaria has the greatest prevalence, close to 50%, in children age 6-59 months in the South West, North Central, and North West regions.

Malaria has the least prevalence, 27.6 percent, in children age 6 to 59 months in the South East region.

Causes of Malaria in Nigeria

Malaria is considered a serious, sometimes fatal, disease spread by mosquitoes and caused by a parasite. The Anopheles mosquito carries the parasite and is where the parasite starts its life cycle. The parasite (Plasmodium) has multiple subspecies, each causing a different severity of symptoms and responding to different treatments.

Malaria is not a communicable disease but can spread without a mosquito. Though not common but there could be transmission from the mother to the unborn child which is known as congenital malaria, by blood transfusions, or when intravenous-drug users share needles.

Malaria occurs when a mosquito infected with either Plasmodium, P. vivax, P. malariae, and P. ovale. Parasite bites one.

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The time from the initial malaria infection until symptoms appear ranges from:

Plasmodium (P.) falciparumis between 9 to 14 days

knowlesi Is between 11 to 12 days

malariae Is between 18 to 40 days

vivax and P. ovale Is between 12 to 18 days

WHO recommends

Preventing Malaria combines accurate information and willingness to work towards combating the deadly epidemic. Below are some of the World Health Organization recommendations for preventing Malaria.

1. Cleaning drainage and waterways; avoiding stagnant water around dwelling areas. This is because the Mosquito that carry the plasmodium which spreads Malaria breed in stagnant water. The WHO recommends that Governments of Countries where Malaria thrives should ensure that they encourage sanitation of the environments in rural dwelling areas.

2. Using insecticides and insecticide treated anti-mosquitos nets. The WHO has recommended that Governments should encourage the ownership of insecticide treated nets in their Countries by providing free/cheap/subsidized nets for people in rural areas and low income dwelling areas.

3. Sensitization and education of local, rural and low income dwellers on the danger of Malaria, prevention tips, and treatment tips. Also, provision of treatment facilities and anti-malaria drugs in these areas is also considered necessary.

How much can the government do to end Malaria?

While there is pessimism towards the possibility of ending the Malaria epidemic in the Country, it is not totally impossible to stamp out pests. This has been shown in history when Alberta, a Province in Canada celebrated 50 years of eradicating rats from the Province.

The Nigerian Government can do a number of things to stamp out Mosquitos and Malaria from the Country by adhering to the WHO guidelines for the control of the spread of Malaria and eradication of the deadly disease; ensuring that the citizens of the country are sensitized on the causes, symptoms, and cures of Malaria; promoting hygienic environments through the enforcement of environmental sanitations across the country; distribution of insecticide treated nets across the country; and providing health facilities across the country that will focus majorly on preventing, diagnosing and treating Malaria cases in rural and urban areas and in low income communities.

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