As Nigeria continues to record the highest burden of malaria prevalence in Africa, experts have raised concern over poor quality control as factor responsible.
According to them Nigeria accounts for about 27 per cent of malaria burden in Africa and responsible for 30 percent childhood mortality and 25 per cent mortality among pregnant women, with more than 70 per cent of outpatient attendance in public facilities.
hey gave the assertion at a symposium in commemoration of the 2019 World Malaria Day organised by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in collaboration with Malaria Society of Nigeria and Society for Mosquito Control in Nigeria, with the theme: "Zero Malaria Starts with Me"
Speaking at the event, the Founder Health Environment and Development Foundation, Dr. Bamgboye Afolabi said poor quality control of pharmaceuticals, medications, research, administrative management of malaria as well as other antimalarial commodities have contributed to the increasing burden of the disease in the country.
He said lack of political will and policies to regulate the influx of these antimalarial commodities by the government will continue to put the country in grave danger, as expired, low dosage and poor quality medicines flood the market.
Alolabi, who is also a Chief Medical Research Fellow, NIMR, while giving his presentation on "State of Malaria and Antimalarial Commodities in Nigeria", revealed that over 20 million of antimalarial medicines are consumed by Nigerian, of which half of the amount are fake, which poses great danger to the health of the nation.
He cited a drug shop, which was found to have over 30 different types of antimalarial medicines, without research done or approval for consumption, adding that most of these drugs are been imported into the country with the aim to destroy lives and make money.
Afolabi lamented that no antimalarial medicines should be approved for use in Nigeria without prior confirmation through research and periodic evaluation in the country.
He said in order to ensure high quality antimalarial medicines in Nigeria, the government should work with the local pharmaceutical industry in producing its own drug, as studies have shown that antimalarial medicinal plants are grown in the country, waiting for their efficacy to be studied.
"The biggest problem we have in Nigeria is that we don't manufacture anything, there is not a single manufacturing industry that is manufacturing authentic antimalarial drug in Nigeria, almost everything is imported from India, China and other countries. They bring all these drugs to us as blacks, who they don't care about their death. They feel they can make money out of blacks and Nigeria don't care about that. That should change if we are going to talk about the quality of pharmaceuticals commodities," he added.
He also lamented on the quality of health services as well as the poor state of the health system, which he said is impeding the treatment of malaria in the country.
According to him, the economic burden of malaria in Africa is over $20billion, which he said ranges from the treatment, transportation to medical facilities, blood transfusion and death among others.
Also speaking at the event, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said despite the 2015 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey, which revealed a decline in the disease prevalence, malaria has remained a major public health challenge in the country as it accounts for more than one in 10 deaths.
Idris who was represented by the state Malaria Elimination Programme Manager, Dr. Abimbola Osinowo, maintained that malaria is responsible for 30 percent childhood mortality and 25 per cent mortality among pregnant women, where the infection can be serious, adding that Lagos state accounts for more than 70 per cent of outpatient attendance in public facilities.
He said with the malaria elimination interventions and the increasing number of population in the state, the government has now placed "emphasis on environmental management and Integrated Vector Control, including operational research for evidence based programming and informed decision making."
He, however, commended the Research Institute for the unwavering technical support to the state and the efforts towards curbing the menace of malaria in the country, adding that the war against the disease is a collective effort in order to achieve zero malaria.
In his address, the Director General, NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako, who was represented by the Director of Resaerch, Dr. Stella Smith said the World Malaria Report 2018, which estimated huge number of malaria cases recorded in 2017, with 10 African countries having the highest disease burden reveals insufficient levels of access to and uptake of lifesaving anti-malaria commodities and interventions.
He said these gaps must be filled if malaria is to be defeated for good in Africa, particularly Nigeria, which has the highest percentage of malaria prevalence in the region.
The DG assured that the research institute on its part will continue to work with other institutions and partners to ensure that high-level quality antimalarials are delivered to Nigerians through its scientists and facilities.
In his remark, the President, Malaria Society of Nigeria, Dr. John Puddicombe lamented over the lack of commitment on the part of the government towards the malaria elimination interventions.
He said poor power supply deters people in community from using the treated mosquito nets, which emits heat as well as inadequate infrastructure and drainage systems to discourage the breeding of mosquitoes.
Puddicombe said while politicians reach the nook and crannies of communities to seek votes during the electioneering period, the same efforts should be put to ensure that the malaria elimination campaign gets to the grassroots.
"There should be adequate power supply through out this country so that people can put on their fans and then sleep comfortably under the treated mosquito nets, otherwise we are just playing lip service. There should be provision of appropriate drainage systems to discourage mosquitoes from breeding and I want to believe that the country has the resources to put all these measures in place," he stressed.
Speaking on the progress made in Nigeria towards eliminating malaria, the Director, Malaria Research Group, NIMR, Dr. Samson Awolola said though, progress has been made through interventions, the country has a lot of commitment to make as the prevalence rate is still high at about 27 percent.
On ways to move forward, Awolola said the government needs to increase its budget allocation for research, which is still very poor, stressing that research in the country depends on international donors.
He said research is key in malaria elimination in Nigeria, noting that the country cannot continue to depend on the faith of donors.
Awolola, however, charged the government to take charge of funding the country's research and creating an enabling environment for Nigeria to make huge impact in malaria elimination.