As the world marks the World Malaria Day, Wednesday, with the theme - Ready to Beat Malaria, experts have said Nigeria could eliminate malaria if there was political will.
In a statement signed on behalf of Novartis, a pharmaceutical company by Nana Boakye-Yiadom, the experts opine that with the current way Nigeria is handling malaria, it is unlikely the country will be able to achieve malaria elimination by 2030.
"There are great plans, policies and documents... but very little on the path of the government to make things work," This assertion, the release noted is contained in the MalaFa report.
The MalaFA study was commissioned by Novartis and co-chaired by Richard Kamwi, Ambassador, Elimination 8 (E8), and Bob Snow, of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust program, Kenya and University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
Research advisers, which include Roll Back Malaria, Malaria No More UK and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance have experts suggesting that the capacity of regulators in Nigeria to check influx of substandard malaria products needs to be strengthened.
Part of the statement reads:
According to the 2017 World Malaria Report, there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, up from 211 million cases in 2015. The number of malaria deaths was 445,000 in 2016 vs. 438,000 in 2015. 90 per cent of malaria cases and over 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Children under 5 are particularly at risk, and malaria takes the life of a child every two minutes.
Over the next five years, as part of its commitment, Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, will invest more than USD100 million to advance research and development of next-generation treatments to combat emerging resistance to artemisinin and other currently used antimalarials. In order to contribute to the WHO's target of reducing malaria-related child mortality by at least 90 per cent by 2030, Novartis will further help expand access to paediatric antimalarials and implement healthcare system strengthening programs in 4 sub-Saharan countries.
The new commitment, the statement adds launches at the same time as results from a new research study (Malaria Futures for Africa, MalaFA) across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In total, 68 African experts from governments, the research community and nongovernmental organizations expressed their views on progress and remaining challenges toward the 2030 global malaria elimination targets.
Malaria remains a major public health concern in Nigeria with about 76 per cent of the population at risk. It is still one of the leading causes of death in the country with the country having one of the greatest number of malaria cases in the world. Despite the tremendous progress made in combating malaria, one child still dies from the disease every two minutes. Novartis aims to contribute to the WHO's target of reducing malaria-related child mortality by at least 90 per cent in 2030.
In Nigeria and three other Sub Saharan African countries, Novartis plans to work with partners to help expand access to our paediatric artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) and drive integrated community case management (iCCM) initiatives. iCCM is recognized as a key strategy for increasing access to essential treatments and reducing child mortality from treatable conditions, such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. The MalaFa Report insight on Nigeria offered that in terms of budgetary integrity, Malaria programmes are dependent on the availability of donor funds. At the expiration of these programmes, the entire country goes into doldrums and we wait for the next programme. In between, the little gains made are lost.
Meanwhile, with respect to Geographical focus, the inputs from Nigerian experts reveal in the MalaFa Report that because 'Nigerians do travel a lot with many traveling to Asia on business. This increases the prospects for importation of ACT-resistant parasite strains into the country.'
"Resistance to treatment presents the biggest threat to the incredible progress that has been made in the fight against malaria in the past 20 years. We cannot afford to wait; this is why we are committing to advance the research and development of next-generation treatments," Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis said.
"At the same time, we need to work to ensure that our innovation reaches those most in need, even those in the most remote locations."