The Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, yesterday, said about 116 million people from four African countries, including Nigeria were currently suffering from malaria.
The figure accounted for 47 percent of global burden arising from the disease. Chukwu called for intensified efforts to rid the continent of the disease.
The others include the Democratic Republic Congo, DRC, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya.
This was even as the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has said treated nets were key to the reduction in malaria-induced deaths and illnesses.
The Better Society Foundation, TBSF, an international Non-Governmental Organisation said about “$4.4 billion (about N620 billion) has been mobilised from international partners and African governments to make vital interventions in the fight against the eradication of the disease in Africa over the next three years, adding that additional $3.6 billion (about N55.6billion) was needed in funding the project from 2013 to 2015 in Nigeria.
At a media parley to commemorate the World Malaria Day, the Executive Director, TBSF, Mr Ade Dare, said,“It is critically important that we stay on course. Malaria resurgence will remain a persistent threat until the disease is eradicated altogether. We need to keep up the momentum but more importantly hold the gains. With sustained funding rapid progress towards ending malaria deaths can continue, but without it, gains could be quickly reversed putting millions of lives at risk”.
Speaking to commemorate the World Malaria Day at the African Union Conference of Health Ministers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Chukwu said various strategies were being implemented in the control of the disease, adding that there was need to move on to elimination and ultimately eradication stages.
He said the continent needed to adopt several integrated approaches to eliminate malaria, even as Nigeria has distributed 51,703,880 Long Lasting Insecticide Nets, LLINs.
His words: “Nets alone cannot lead to the expected outcome. We must diversify into other strategies such as IRS, larviciding and environment management. Awareness creation is being scaled up through the use of NIFAA, Nigeria Inter-Faith Association, as well as the investiture of malaria ambassadors.
“In the African region, malaria is still of public health importance. Globally, it is estimated that there are about 247 million cases per year and Africa accounts for 86 percent (212million).”
Insecticide treated nets key to eradication of malaria
UNICEF’s Director of Programmes, Nicholas Alipui noted that malaria still killed 660,000 people every year, adding that most of them were African children. Alipui maintained that universal coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets is key in making gains against malaria.
He said: “It is unacceptable that every day more than 1,500 children still die from a preventable and curable disease. We must distribute insecticide-treated nets to all who need them, provide timely testing for children and appropriate medicine when they are infected.”
The Ebonyi State government has disclosed that about 96,000 residents across the 13 local government area of the state were affected annually by the malaria scourge.
Briefing newsmen, state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sunday Nwangele, represented by the Director, Hospital Services Management Board in the state Ministry of Health, Dr. Gabriel Onwe stated that the statistics of infected persons were derived from reported cases of the disease in the state.
The Kogi State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Idris Omede advocated the use of LLINs, saying the transmission of malaria parasites can best be reduced using the long lasting mosquito nets.
The Commissioner noted that N480 billion is spent annually nation wide as a result of the malaria scourge.
Nigeria’s Malaria ambassador, Aliko Dangote decried the prevalence of the disease in spite of development of new drugs, saying it remained a major threat to the health of the citizens in the developing countries.
Dangote, who spoke in Lagos, said all hands must be on deck to collaborate on how to deal with preventable diseases like malaria, measles, polio etc pointing out that the success achieve in these regards is key to stimulation of the nation’s economy as the potential productive sector of the population are the vulnerable groups.
The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has called for increased commitment to the malaria campaign by government at all levels.
The President of NMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele in statement urged more strategic and robust planning, effective partnership and coordination with investment of more resources into the campaign to eradicate malaria.
“We call for greater commitment to research efforts for development of malaria vaccine. We believe that long-term success in the global campaign to defeat malaria will be greatly enhanced with improved investments in on-going research for development of an effective vaccine as well as research into ways of combating emerging threats such as parasite resistance,” he added.