Dr. Asuquo Ekwe, the Programme Manager, Roll Back Malaria in Cross River State, has described behavioural change as a panacea to malaria prevention and treatment in Nigeria.
Ekwe said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Calabar while commemorating the World Malaria Day.
The World Malaria Day is an international day commemorated every April 25 to recognise global efforts to control malaria.
Ekwe noted that many Nigerians hardly use interventions provided by the government for the prevention and treatment of malaria.
The programme manager frowned at the attitude of many health workers who he said engaged in sharp practices like selling commodities provided free by the government.
According to him, on a yearly basis, the Roll Back Malaria carried out community sensitisation and awareness creation with emphasis on behavioural change.
Ekwe said: “It is one thing to tell people to do something and another for them to actually do it.
“Malaria accounts for 15 per cent of deaths among children under five years, third to measles, which is number one in Nigeria, and many pregnant women are also affected.
“A lot of Nigerians think going for a test in a health center before treatment is a waste of time.
“In most cases, patent medicine dealers are more interested in their money.
“They feel they will lose the customers if they ask them to go for a test before treatment.
“This worries us because the patent medicine dealers are supposed to know that we are collaborating with them to ensure that malaria is eliminated in our society
“Although the number of those that were treated, based on clinical signs and symptoms of malaria without proper test is reducing in Cross River.
“According to a 2018 data, we are still carrying out advocacy to stakeholders that Nigerians need to change their perception.”
The demographic study on the malaria endemic level in Nigeria carried out in 2018 indicated that malaria reduced from over 50 per cent in 2015 to 27 per cent in 2018.
The programme manager attributed the positive development to the efforts of the government and donor agencies in the fight against malaria.
Ekwe, however, said though there were improvements in the fight against malaria, there were still some such as low availability of skilled manpower among others.
He said: “How many laboratory scientists in Nigeria can, with the aid of a microscope, identify malaria parasite accurately without a skilled manpower?
“You cannot do a successful diagnosis without skill.
“You cannot effectively treat and if you do not treat effectively, you cannot control the prevalence of the disease.
“The population of people in Cross River is increasing.
“The last time we had a replacement of mosquito treated net campaign in the state was in 2015.
“We will be having another campaign in 2019.
“We urge the people not just to collect these nets but use them.”
Ekwe also urged Nigerians to join hands in the fight against malaria by keeping their surrounding clean, sleeping in mosquito treated nets and ensuring that there was proper diagnosis and prompt treatment of malaria.
According to him, collective fight against malaria would enable Nigeria achieve its desire of eliminating malaria by 2030.
The World Health Organisation said that globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries were at the risk of malaria in 2012.
WHO also disclosed that the disease caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African Children.
Malaria is caused by the plasmodium parasite which spread to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
There are many different types of plasmodium parasite, but health experts say only five types cause malaria in humans.