Nigeria: What Nigeria Must Do to Eradicate Malaria - Experts

Malaria is endemic in Nigeria with about 53 million cases annually (one in four residents) and 81,640 deaths annually (nine deaths per hour) from the disease.

If Nigeria is to eradicate malaria and save millions of people from dying from the disease, there is an urgent need to invest in quality Long Lasting Insecticides Nets (LLIN).

This was the consensus on Wednesday during a virtual panel discussion involving experts, partners and stakeholders to address existing gaps in eliminating malaria, a life-threatening disease.

Tagged "optimising vector control interventions towards malaria elimination in Nigeria," the programme was organised by the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA) in collaboration with the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) and global health company, Vestergaard.

One of the panellist and head of global growth at Vestergaard, Patrick Sieyes, said the cornerstone of malaria prevention is essentially vector control in the form of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) and Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS).

According to Mr Sieyes, a new class of bed nets that includes the piperonyl butoxide (PBO) chemical has been shown to significantly reduce malaria infection in children.

"Given the resource limitations, investment in the most cost-effective and basic tools, such as high PBO nets and vector control tools must be prioritized to maximize impact," he said.

There is a need for more industry collaboration to achieve the goal of malaria elimination; improving collaboration across sectors, and bringing in the private sector will help," Mr Sieyes said.

Malaria

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female anopheles mosquitoes.

In 2019, there was an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide and the estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409,000, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2019, the region was home to 94 per cent of malaria cases and deaths.

Malaria is endemic in Nigeria with about 53 million cases annually (one in four residents) and 81,640 deaths annually (nine deaths per hour) from the disease.

This is in addition to a quarter (25 per cent) of the global burden, which Nigeria bears, according to 2019 annual malaria report.

Research shows that LLINs are responsible for averting 68 per cent of malaria cases and that the increased access to quality LLINs is a major factor behind the 60 per cent reduction in malaria deaths since 2000 - saving approximately 6.2 million lives since 2001.

Vector control tools

Mr Sieyes said Nigeria is well-positioned to help close the data gap on the vector control tools recently introduced in the fight against malaria.

He said the country has a strong regulatory approval system for vector control tools, which will assist the programme in understanding a product's claims.

"There is an opportunity for Nigeria to leverage its institutions and systems to lead the way in the creation of an end-to-end quality monitoring framework for bed nets," he said.

"Vestergaard's pledge to quality is a commitment to save more lives and we are invested in exploring the opportunity to create a link between post-marketing surveillance activities and the regulatory approval process."

Omobolanle Laniyan, Co-Chair of CAMA, said the aim of the meeting is to have a structured discussion with relevant stakeholders to foster public-private partnerships on malaria vector control interventions in Nigeria.

"We have found that strategic partnerships can be highly effective in making an impactful change and aiding in the elimination of malaria in Nigeria," he said.

The Head of Surveillance, Monitoring, Evaluation and Operational Research, NMEP, Perpetua Uhomoibhi, said malaria is still a major public health challenge in the country and efforts are ongoing to reduce the number of new cases.

Ms Perpetua said the vector control strategy will be deployed across the country and will include the distribution of insecticide-treated nets and IRS.

She noted that the deployment will be guided by the local government areas representatives.

Vector control is an essential component that has been proven to successfully reduce or interrupt malaria transmission when coverage is sufficiently high.

Such control targets mosquitoes capable of transmitting malaria parasites. Two applicable measures as recommended by WHO are: the use of insecticide-treated nets to protect those at risk of malaria and indoor residual spraying where appropriate.

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