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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

THE WORSENING SCOURGE OF MALARIA

The recent revelation that as many as 300,000 children die in Nigeria annually from malaria-related illnesses is alarming. This should be regarded as a national health emergency and every effort should be made to tackle the scourge. Nigeria cannot claim to be making progress in healthcare delivery when so many children are dying from avoidable causes. Certainly, the picture would be worse when the rate of malaria-induced morbidity affecting adults is added.
That this is the grave fact despite the much-taunted anti malaria control programmes initiated by the Federal Government show that the programmes are not recording much success as expected. The national malaria programme should be reviewed and the new strategies on the best way to tackle the disease, properly defined. Efforts should be re-doubled in mitigating the debilitating effects of malaria. That way, the present unsavoury situation would be reversed.
The frightening revelation on malaria was made in Benin City, Edo state, on the occasion of this year’s World Malaria Day, held on April 25, 2011. According to an official of the Society for family Health, Mrs Magdelene Okolo ,statistics show that “ a child under five years of age dies every 30minutes in Nigeria from malaria-related diseases. This translates to about 300,000 deaths annually”. Mrs Okolo further revealed that, “63 percent of all hospital attendance in Nigeria and 70 percent of illnesses in five year old are due to malaria”. The Edo State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Victor Enoghama corroborated Mrs Okolo’s statement when he said, “there are over 110 million clinically diagnosed cases of malaria in Nigeria, out of which 300,000 children die”.
Certainly, this is no cheery news!
While we appreciate the fact that the federal government has a national malaria control strategy under its Roll Back Malaria programme, it is regrettable that the programme is not replicated at the states and local government levels. The result is that the masses of the people at the grassroots, especially in the rural areas are excluded. Most of the recorded deaths incidentally occurred at the grassroots level.
For the programme to be more effective, the states should have effective malaria control programmes. No amount of effort at the federal level can go far enough. Despite the endemic nature of malaria in Nigeria, government seems to have concentrated more on curative rather than preventive measures. For instance, except in a few states where the issue of environmental sanitation is taken seriously, the rest of the population lives under poor environmental conditions.
Poor housing conditions, amid filthy drains and dirty surroundings provide breeding grounds for the vector mosquitoes that spread malaria. There is no environmental fumigation programme anywhere in the country to kill mosquito larvae. How much would it cost to carry out a periodic fumigation exercise that would go a long way to eradicate mosquitoes and in turn malaria? To get a majority of the population out of potential danger, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHS) should be made functional and effective; easy access to malaria drugs, which the subsidy is expected to enhance, should also be made possible. In general, the fight against malaria should receive more official attention than is currently the case.

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