Dr Aminu Garba, the coordinator, Africa Health Budget Network, says tackling the burden of malaria in Nigeria will require comprehensive and concerted efforts from both the government and citizens.
He made the call on Tuesday in Abuja in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
NAN reports that malaria, a disease that is preventable and treatable continues to have a devastating effect on the world and Nigeria.
The disease accounts for the highest burden as it contributes to 23 per cent of malaria deaths worldwide.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge with about 95 per cent.
It is estimated at 228 million cases occurring in the WHO and AFRO Region with about 602,000 reported deaths.
Garba said that many interventions had been employed to reduce or eradicate the burden of the disease in the country, but due to certain factors were yet to yield desired results.
He said that in tackling malaria, interventions had to be combined such as using effective quality drugs, prevention of malaria through prophylaxis and also through addressing the environment.
This according to him, will reduce the burden of malaria in Nigeria.
“So, my understanding as a public health physician, many people in Nigeria visit the hospital when the malaria is already severe.
“We spend a lot of time at home even when we start having the symptoms without going to hospital, we let it become very severe then we start going to hospital and at that time, more effort needs to be put in place to treat the patient.
“So late admission of patients is one of the challenges why we are not able to address the malaria burden in Nigeria”, he said.
Garba also said that using insecticide treated bed nets and use of insecticide sprays to kill the mosquito, which is the transmitting agent of the disease, was also a very effective method of controlling it.
However, he said that although the government was trying through the Global Fund and so many other partners to provide the bed nets free of charge, many communities that were given the nets did not use them appropriately.
“The use of the indoor spray to destroy the mosquitoes is very erratic in Nigeria, it is not every community or every state that are investing in procuring the spray.
“It is not an intervention that is done all over the country, it is just a handful of communities that are using it, yet malaria is all over the place.
“These are some of the challenges why the interventions are not working properly in Nigeria.”
To address some of the challenges, he said that the nation needs to invest in environmental sanitation and also improve on environmental practices.
According to him, drainage systems should not be contaminated or blocked as that will reduce chances of water gathering in one place or becoming stagnated and reduce mosquito transmission of malaria.
He also urged the government to invest more in malaria by ensuring that there was adequate funding in the annual budget, both at the national and state levels.
This, he said, was so that malaria drugs, treated bed nets and the residual indoor spray could all be procured to ensure that there was mass awareness campaign for malaria all over the country.
Garba also urged the Federal Government to ensure massive roll-out of the malaria vaccines to protect children from the killer disease.
He said that though the vaccine was only a preventive measure as it does not mean that those children would not be infected by malaria, but it had shown that significantly, it would reduce malaria among young children.
NAN reports that the World Malaria Day, celebrated every year on April 25, is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control.
The theme for 2022 is: “Harness Innovation to Reduce the Malaria Disease Burden and Save Lives”. (NAN)
•PHOTO: Dr Aminu Garba