opinionBy Funmi Falobi
Lagos — Malaria is a disease that nations of the world spend huge sums of money to control. It affects mostly children and women. In spite of innovations by developed countries to fight the disease, millions of people had lost their lives to it.
Although malaria has been almost totally eradicated from the developed world, it remains a major disease in the Third World countries, including Nigeria. It is a life-threatening parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes.
Nigeria is not left behind in the fight against malaria. There are drugs and introduction of mosquito nets, especially for pregnant women and children, but these have not been able to provide lasting solution to the problem, rather it is a profit-yielding venture for countries where those items are produced.
In its quest to provide lasting solution to malaria problem in Nigeria and Africa, Lagos State government is working towards establishment of a Rural Botanical Park in Igbodu, Epe area of the state, where 40 hectares of land has been cleared for that purpose. The initiative planned by the Centre for Rural Development (CERUD) was in collaboration with University Sains, Malaysia. The park would check incidence of the disease through planting of medicinal plants and trees and serve as a research centre where further studies on malaria could be carried out.
In his message at a stakeholders' summit on the establishment of the park held in Lagos, Governor Babatunde Fashola said the vision was not to treat malaria but eradicate it. According to him, the park would aid in developing a vaccine that would produce immunity against malaria, adding that "we can produce those studies that would develop the study of malaria and help humanity", saying studies have shown the effectiveness of repelling agents. It is hoped that the possibility of combinations of these or other herbal extracts, as mosquito repellants would become feasible upon the establishment of Igbodu Botanical Park.
Deputy Governor, Mrs. Sarah Sosan tasked that the park should make a collection and study all the botanicals ever used by mankind in combating malaria, be it in extermination of mosquitoes, controlling the parasite or treatment of the disease.
"This research activity at the park is expected to lead to a variety of breakthroughs that would yield invaluable products, thus leading finally to the eradication of malaria in Lagos State and Nigeria," she said.
Commissioner for Rural Development, Lanre Balogun, explained that the park would contain all the plants in the world and properly labeled and students could go there not only for educational purposes but also for recreation.
The park would also provide nutritional and economic importance to the community where it is located and the state in general. "All over the world, there are plants particularly known to each region. In Lagos and Nigeria, there are a lot of them that people search for and ready to pay for them but many people here do not know they have them. Some of these plants grow naturally behind your house but you do not know what they are used for.
"We are also trying to find a way to eradicate mosquito completely not only in Lagos but also in Nigeria and Africa in general. If we can eradicate mosquito, a lot of people that would have spent money in buying malaria tablets and mosquito coil would not spend money in that area but use the money for feeding and they would be more productive and it would have a multiplier effects on our GDP and that exactly is what we want to achieve," he said.
Traditional medicine is a complex area of medicine, but over time people have developed it to orthodox type. Some now come in tablet/capsule form, which initially was in liquid form. Other things would come up through this park, their usage is better for humanity in terms of curative, he added.
He declared that the state is collaborating with Malaysia because she has the same ecological background with Nigeria, saying the essence was to conserve the nation's scarce resource.
*To be concluded tomorrow