Nigeria: Reducing Malaria Scourge in Nigeria

13 May 2021

Over 100 million Nigerians are at risk of malaria, while about 300,000 deaths still occur in the country every year due to the disease. As the country recently joined the rest of the globe to mark this year's World Malaria Day, Martins Ifijeh looks at efforts made by organisations like Reckitt Benckiser to change the narrative.

While many countries have been able to reduce the burden of malaria to a significant level in recent times, there still exist about 500 million persons globally who are at risk of the lethal fever. And out of which, almost two million persons, especially children below the ages of five lose their lives yearly to the disease.

Statistics by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), say out of those dying yearly from malaria, children of under five years old constitute over a million. That is one child dying every 30 seconds; amounting to about 3,000 child deaths every day globally. According to the World Malaria Report 2016, in 2015, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths. One child dies from malaria every two minutes.

But what is more worrisome is that a concentrated 90 per cent of those affected live in sub-Sahara Africa, which means about 900 children below five years old die every year from malaria, a health issue the World Health Organisation (WHO) had said was 100 percent preventable.

Unfortunately, Nigeria shares a major chunk of this burden with an estimated 100 million persons said to be at risk of the disease while over 300,000 lives are lost yearly in the country, according to the Marketing Director of Reckitt Benckiser Nigeria, Mr Tanzim Rezwan.

Society for Family Health (SFH) says malaria accounts for about six out of 10 out-patient visits and three of 10 admissions in healthcare facilities in Nigeria, adding that malaria accounts for 11 per cent of maternal mortality and three of 10 deaths in children less than five years in the country. Also, indications show that 60 percent of people who visit the hospital are diagnosed with malaria and four out of five people are at risk of contracting malaria in Nigeria.

This is even as experts have stated that the disease was a major cause of absenteeism in schools, offices and markets, thereby significantly and negatively affecting the economic growth of the country.

In the same vein, a recent publication in Malaria Journal suggests that it accounts for poor school performance, which on the long run has a toll on the economy despite direct financial loss to treatment, advocacy and prevention of the disease in low and middle income countries like Nigeria.

According to experts, malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease, caused by parasitic protozoans (a type of single cell microorganism) of the plasmodium type. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma or death.

It is in tackling all of these, including the high deaths, high cases, low school and work attendance, and financial burden on the country that Reckitt Benckiser Nigeria, makers of Mortein insecticides, in partnership with Ogun State Ministry of Health commemorated the 2021 World Malaria Day held in Abeokuta.

Speaking at the campaign, Rezwan believed awareness and execution of malaria-targeted programmes were key to addressing the scourge in the country.

He said: "In continuation of our fight against malaria and as part of activities marking this year's commemoration, we have Introduced "Mortein Fight to End Malaria" campaign, and joined forces with the Ogun State Government and the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) to support in the education and awareness of malaria prevention in Nigeria.

He said malaria remains both a major cause and a consequence of global poverty and inequity, adding that its burden was greatest in the least developed areas and among the poorest members of society, hence the need to push for it's elimination. "Many of those most vulnerable - especially young children and pregnant women - are still not able to access the life-saving prevention, diagnosis and treatment they so urgently need. World Malaria Day is a chance to shine a spotlight on the global effort to control the scourge.

"As part of the partnership with Ogun State, this year's drive to eliminate malaria is designed to be achieved through several platforms: On-ground market and community engagement activities, digital education and radio engagement. Going forward, the partnership also expects to evolve to include various other initiatives including sustained efforts through malaria programmes in schools.

He said that the community engagement and collaborations were part of numerous purpose driven initiatives by Mortein to stem the prevalence of malaria scourge in the country and Africa as a whole.

He continued, "At Reckitt, every day, in everything we do, we're driven by our purpose; to protect, heal and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner, healthier world. Mortein, as a leading global insecticide brand, works on a mission to enable and empower our consumers with knowledge and expert solutions to rid themselves of vector borne diseases such as malaria. In that spree, we not only try to bring in the world class products to the consumers but also aspire to drive awareness on preventive measures."

According to him, Mortein also joined NMEP for 2021 World Malaria Day activities in a social media campaign to sensitise the public on malaria prevention and testing. Adding that it was also looking forward to working out a sustainable campaign in future to drive the partnership with more actions towards 'Fight to end Malaria' in Nigeria.

He said the results from the campaigns and interventions from the various states and Abuja showed that malaria can be eradicated or reduced to the minimum. He said if Nigeria can adhere strictly to the methods, which include use of long lasting insecticide treated nets, ridding stagnant water off their environments, and the use of insecticides like Mortein, malaria will be a thing of the past in the country.

He said the partnership with the states and federal government, which has been on-going for years, also demonstrates the company's commitment to the anti-malaria fight in the country towards a clean and healthy Nigeria.

He said, "At RB, our global vision is to have a world where people are healthier and live better. In achieving this, we will continue to make a difference by giving people innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes. We know that regular combined interventions of long lasting insecticide treated nets, Larviciding and insecticide use like Mortein is the solution to achieving a malaria-free Nigeria. Therefore to protect our children and ourselves from getting sick, the first thing to do is to educate ourselves about prevention," he said.

In her remarks, the Commissioner for Health in Ogun State, Dr. Tomi Coker, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Ayinde Adesanya expressed appreciation to all partners to ensure that proven interventions are deployed towards Malaria elimination in the state. "I wish to appreciate the assistance rendered by our partners - especially Reckitt, makers of Mortein insecticide and donor agencies and I call for the support and cooperation of all and sundry to ensure that all aspects of malaria elimination programmes are addressed and are well funded for the benefit of all and particularly our children and pregrant mothers." He said.

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