Malaria and its related social consequences have been implicated to be responsible for about $1.1 billion economic losses in Nigeria per annum.
The World Health Organisation revealed this in its message to mark this year’s World Malaria day.
In Ebonyi State, the weeklong activity from Friday the 23rd to Friday, the 30th April was capped with a joint media briefing held at the Osborne La-Palm Hotel, Abakaliki.
Presenting the report, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, represented by Dr. Okechukwu Emmanuel, lamented that over 384,000 preventable malaria deaths occurred in the WHO African region in 2020 in spite of great progress so far made in malaria response in the region.
He however observed that the response had yielded commendable results whereby between 2000 and 2019 malaria incidence declined by 29 per cent and deaths by 60 per cent while over 1.2 billion cases and 7.1 million deaths were averted in the region.
Moeti further observed that though some African countries such as Cape Verde has maintained a zero malaria status since 2018 while Algeria was certified malaria free in 2019, 36 of the 44 malaria endemic countries in the region, including Nigeria, have not achieved such desired milestone.
The development, according to him, was worsened by new challenges on the horizon such as increasing vector insecticide resistance and parasite’s resistance to certain drugs in the region, capable of compromising the effectiveness of interventions such as ITNs, indoor spraying and drug treatment.
Economically, Moeti maintained that malaria is a major contributor to Africa’s retarded economic growth and development.
Moeti explained, “Every year we let malaria spread, health and development suffer.
“Malaria is responsible for an average annual reduction of 1.3℅ in African economic growth.
“Malaria-related absenteeism and productivity losses cost Nigeria, for example, an estimated US$1.1 billion every year.
The WHO representative emphasized that regular ante natal care compliance by pregnant women and habitual sleeping under Insecticidal Treated Nets were key in changing the malaria narratives in Nigeria.
He however expressed optimism that pilot implementation of malaria vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi portend light at the end of the tunnel.
“To change this situation, more has to be done to help at-risk populations…
” Urgent action is therefore needed to stop the scourge of this disease, and get on track towards the global malaria goals of 90 percent reduction in cases and deaths by 2030.
“This includes investment to expand access to malaria interventions for groups that have been left behind, such as children and pregnant women.
“Smart deployment is also important to protect the effectiveness of malaria tools, along with innovations to pro actively address anticipated challenges.”
In his briefing, the Commissioner for Health, Ebony State, Dr. Daniel Umezurike, said the World Malaria day provides an avenue for malaria endemic, and free countries to recount and learn about the devastating consequences of the disease, attract donors to join the global partnership against malaria, as well as provide the chance to increase awareness on the disease to win more political will and support from government.
While he commended the Breakthrough Action, Nigeria, and other partners for tremendous positive intervention results in the State, he noted that the State government has not only provided enabling environment for partners collaboration, but has always shown greater commitment in funding anti-malaria campaigns and securing the general Health and wellbeing of its populace.
While maintaining that Malaria still remains a serious public health problem in the state, accounting for over 60 per cent of hospital attendance and a major cause of mortality and morbidity in pregnant women and children under five years, Umezurike noted that the combined result of the state government’s investment and those of the partners have reduced malaria incidences and fatalities over the years.
According to him, the highest confirmed uncomplicated malaria case of 85,910 registered in Ivo local government area of the State in 2019 for instance, was brought down to 61, 762 in 2020 due to effective interventions, while the highest severe malaria cases of 438 in 2019 was lowered to only 159 in 2020.
Speaking on this year’s theme which is “Zero Malaria: Draw the line against malaria”, Umezurike emphasized that every malaria case is preventable while every death is unacceptable.
He called on all and sundry to stand up and take action against the scourge.
Meanwhile, one of the health partners, the Breakthrough Action, Nigeria has maintained that the surest way of conquering malaria was through the practice of priority health behaviours.
Delivering her speech, the BA- N State coordinator, Ebonyi field office, Chidimma Ukoha- Nwankwo, noted the her project focuses on six priority areas in its advocacy against malaria in the Six local government areas of their pilot operation in the State.
She added that apart from issues around malaria, the Breakthrough Action, Nigeria works to achieve priority behaviours in the areas of newborn, maternal and child health, including nutrition, family planning/reproductive health as well as tuberculosis.
Ukoha-Nwankwo emphasized, “As concerns malaria, these are the six priority areas that we are focused on:
“The first one is that you must sleep under the insecticide treated net, every night, all year round.
“Pregnant women must visit health facilities for ANC regularly, and take Intermittent Preventive Treatment IPTP, while pregnant.
“To ensure that you must present yourself for test before treatment.
“The fourth one is that you must take the full course of malaria treatment, and the fifth one is that you must adhere to the national treatment guidelines while the sixth, which we have not started using in Ebonyi is the Seasonal Chemo – Prevention for Malaria”
Other partners who participated in the event included the TIPTOP-Jhpiego, the Roll Back Malaria Initiative, the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT), the US President Malaria Initiative (PMI) among others.
The Malaria Week also featured sensitization road walk/Rally, Town Hall meetings, Church Service and PMI project launch.