OUR governments adopt the easiest approaches to the malaria scourge - talk about it, prescribe more use of mosquito nets. Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, announced in 2012 that more than 90 per cent of Nigeria's population - about 150.3 million people - is at risk of malaria infection.
The Minister summarised the malaria scourge hiding its devastation. "Malaria is a major public problem in Nigeria; Nigeria contributes a quarter of malaria burden in Africa. Over 90 per cent of the country's 167 million people are at risk. It contributes 30 per cent to childhood mortality in the country and contributes 11 per cent of maternal mortality. I must add that it reduces Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product by one per cent annually. It is estimated that malaria-related illnesses and mortality cost Africa's economy about $12 billion annually."
How can malaria be this dangerous and we wait for April 26, the annual World Malaria Day, to advertise mosquito nets to Nigerians?
The 2010 Malaria Indicator Survey Nigeria showed that about 52 per cent of children aged six months to five years tested positive to malaria. According to experts, if these children survive, their physical and mental growth would be adversely affected. A combination of malaria with poor nutrition ensures many of those children would have stunted growth and poor mental development. The 2013 World Malaria Report rates Nigeria as 100 per cent territory for malaria transmission.
"The total private direct cost of treatment is N375.48 billion, total private direct protection cost is N446.07 billion and total private indirect cost is N1.4billion. The total cost of malaria illness in Nigeria was estimated to be about N2.23 trillion representing 7.3 percent of the GDP in 2011," a report in the 2013 Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development, by Nigeria's Olalekan Musa Salihu and Nurudeen Ayodeji Sanni, found.
They recommended, "that government should expand the provision of free and highly subsidised insecticide treated mosquito nets."
Dependence on foreign initiatives on malaria will not work. The World Health Organisation, WHO, formally proposed malaria eradication in 1955. Malaria is claiming more territories. With climate change, some parts of Europe and North America may breed the harmful mosquitoes.
Malaria is not a global challenge. Nigeria bears a huge part of the malaria burden. Nigeria needs to commit resources to researches on malaria vaccine. Our Ministries of Environment should work with health authorities to institute practices that would free the environment of mosquito breeding grounds. The world's interest is more in selling mosquito nets and pharmaceuticals than in fighting malaria.
Our governments should be more practically committed to eliminating malaria; reciting statistics, no matter how depressing, is an ineffective step.