Nigeria: World Malaria Day - Minister Says, Time Is Ripe to End the Deadly Disease for Good.

Nigeria has joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 2019 World Malaria Day on 25 April. During a Press briefing in Abuja on 25 April, 2019, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole in his message underscores this year's theme; 'Zero Malaria Starts with me'; to call for "renewed effort towards ending the scourge of the disease for good".

The commemorative event built on the grassroots campaign endorsed by Heads of States at the last African Union Summit gathering in July 2018. The Summit chose the 2019 theme to empower individuals across the world to make personal commitments towards saving lives, helping communities and economies to thrive by eliminating malaria.

Professor Adewole's keynote address at the Ministerial Press briefing crowned up a week-long series of events to mark the 2019 World Malaria Day. The overarching objective of the event, organized by National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), was to engage media practitioners to create awareness and sensitize the public on individuals, communities, partners and government roles as key stakeholders in the fight against malaria. .

Nigeria has made remarkable progress in malaria control efforts over the years, but continues to occupy an uncomfortable position in the global burden of disease, accounting for 25% and 19% of global cases and deaths respectively. The 20% initial decline noted between 2000 and 2015 have stagnated, and shows gradual progressive increase in incidence since 2016. In order to mitigate a reversal of gains, the country is putting in place measures that will accelerate the pace of reduction of malaria burden in Nigeria.

In his remarks, Dr Rex Mpazanje of World Health Organization (WHO) stressed the need for government and partners to take advantage of the 'Zero Malaria' campaign to empower individuals across the world, in order to make personal commitments to saving more lives, and help communities and economies to thrive by eliminating malaria. "Empowering individuals and communities and engaging them to adopt and deploy simple and cost-effective interventions is key in filling existing implementation gaps", he said.

Recently, using the High burden to High Impact country led approach, WHO is supporting the country to galvanize support for top political will and leadership on malaria. The country assessment also evaluated other elements of strategic information, technical guidance and what is required to develop and sustain a coordinated response. This self-assessment will guide the country towards identification or revision of strategies that are locally generated for maximum impact. Results of the analysis and evidence generated from the Malaria Programme Review will culminate into a well thought out, practical and actionable strategies for reduction of malaria in Nigeria.

At the Press briefing, Dr Mpazanje also presented the message of Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, which highlighted the regional progress in the fight against malaria as reflected in the 2018 World Malaria Report; showing that between 2010-2015, estimated new cases of malaria dropped by 23% while deaths from malaria dropped by 31%. According to the report, the African Region prevented the most deaths (94%) of the estimated 6.8 million fewer malaria deaths that occurred between 2001 and 2015, out of which 6.6 million (97%) were in children aged under 5 years.

The message further emphasized that the occasion calls for renewed national commitments for continued domestic and external investment for malaria prevention and control.

To conclude the meeting, the Minister and all the partners, which included NMEP, WHO, USAID Exxon Mobil, Society for Family Health and Pharmaceutical companies among others, enumerated key achievements recorded by the Malaria Programme in Nigeria and emphasized that an all-inclusive effort is required to rid the country of the deadly disease.

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