World Malaria Day: US pledges support as Nigeria ranks highest globally, loses 200,000 lives, spends N646bn annually to tackle scourge

Mosquito and malaria

Nigeria loses over $1.1 billion (N645.7 billion) yearly to prevention and treatment of malaria as well as other costs, just as no fewer than 200,000 Nigerians were killed by malaria with 61 million others afflicted in 2021.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced this figure Monday during the celebration of the World Malaria Day (WMD).

April 25 was set aside as World Malaria Day (WMD) by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to raise awareness on the mosquito-borne disease and examine efforts towards prevention, treatment, control and elimination of the illness, which according to the body, led to 602,020 reported deaths in Africa last year.

The theme of WMD 2022 is ‘Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives.’

Experts also said Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Tanzania and Mozambique accounted for over half of all malaria deaths globally.

They, however, said “despite the successes recorded with the new malaria vaccine, no single tool is available today that will solve the problem of malaria.”

They noted that it would, therefore, take a combination of strategies, including use of existing control and preventive measures, as well as development of new tools, to control and ultimately eliminate malaria.

WHO’s call

In view of the prevalence, WHO has called “for investments and innovation that bring new vector control approaches, diagnostics, anti-malarial medicines and other tools to speed up the pace of progress against malaria.”

WHO said “despite steady advances in lowering the global burden of malaria between 2000 and 2015, progress has slowed or stalled in recent years, particularly in high burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The world body noted that urgent and concerted action was needed to set the world back on a trajectory toward achieving the 2030 targets of the global malaria strategy.

According to WHO, about 95 per cent of the estimated 228 million cases last year occurred in Africa, along with 602,020 reported deaths.

The body also said “six African countries, worst impacted by malaria, are reported to have accounted for up to 55 per cent of cases globally and for 50 per cent of these deaths. This is a reduction from the 241 million cases in 2020 and estimated deaths at 627,000.”

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, 0in her message to mark this year’s WMD, said the theme aligns with calls to urgently scale up innovation and deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria, while advocating equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment, within the context of building health system resilience.

Moeti further said the past year had witnessed significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control, despite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Landmark recommendations on the use of the first vaccine against malaria, RTS,S were released by WHO late last year.

“This vaccine will be used to prevent malaria among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate to high transmission settings,” Moeti said.

According to the latest World Malaria Report, “four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.9 per cent), Democratic Republic of the Congo (13.2 per cent), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1 per cent) and Mozambique (3.8 per cent). In 2019, there were 303 cases per 1,000 population at risk of malaria.

“Nigeria accounts for about 31.9 per cent of the global malaria deaths; this is approximately 200,000 deaths in 2021. Over 60 million people are infected yearly and an estimated US$1.1 billion is lost yearly due to malaria related absenteeism and productivity losses.”

In October 2021, WHO recommended the broad use of the RTS,S malaria vaccine for young children living in areas with moderate and high malaria transmission.

The recommendation was informed by results from an ongoing WHO-coordinated pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 900,000 children since 2019.

Evidence and experience from the programme has shown that the vaccine is safe, feasible to deliver and reduces deadly severe malaria.

RTS,S is an example of innovation at work and a scientific breakthrough – it is the first vaccine recommended for use against a human parasitic disease of any kind.

US pledges support

Meanwhile, the United States of America has acknowledged its partnership with Nigeria to advance the fight against malaria, despite immense challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S said committed and courageous frontline health workers, especially nurses, midwives, and community health workers, across the country went the extra mile to ensure essential malaria services were sustained.

A statement Monday by the U.S. Embassy said efforts of the two countries saved lives and supported community resilience.

“The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has partnered with Nigeria to fight malaria since 2011, contributing $768 million to date and $74 million in FY 2021.

“PMI’s Annual Report, released today, showcases how the strong partnership between the United States and Nigeria enabled robust and effective malaria services to continue in FY 2021, even as COVID-19 caused enormous strain on the health system.

“Through PMI funding and programs, 58 million bed nets, 130 million fast acting medicines, and 82 million malaria test kits have been delivered to clinics and communities since 2011.

“In addition, 24 million preventive treatment doses were delivered to pregnant women and 13 million doses to children during the rainy season. In the past year, more than 3,666 health workers received training that amplified their ability to detect and treat malaria, while strengthening the health system overall and providing key skills to fight COVID-19 and future pandemics,” the statement read in part.

The statement further quoted  the  USAID Mission Director Anne Patterson as saying, “I think what Nigeria is doing to advance more effective malaria prevention, treatment, and control is so important, especially the introduction of innovative tools to make better use of the data in real-time, and also to enhance quality of care via community-based health workers.”

 “Assisted by PMI investments, Nigeria is progressing its fight against malaria using proven and cost-effective methods that save lives and promise a more healthy and prosperous future for families and communities.

“Acting U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator Julie Wallace said, “With perseverance and strong global commitment we can end malaria in our lifetime. The United States is proud of our work with Nigeria in combating this deadly, yet entirely preventable, disease,” the embassy further stated.

The statement also disclosed that, “As part of our commitment to the reduction of the malaria burden and saving lives, the U.S Army Medical Research Directorate-Africa/Nigeria (USAMRD-A/N), also with support from the PMI, has been able to increase and strengthen the capacities of medical laboratory scientists in malaria microscopy, rapid testing, quality assurance, and laboratory supervision.

“USAMRD-A/N is also joining the State Ministries of Health in Akwa-Ibom and Benue, the National Malaria Elimination Programme, and the Nigerian Ministry of Defense in launching the National Malaria Slide Bank (NMSB) Project.

“The project will produce Nigeria’s first bank of validated, domestically developed slides for malaria microscopy training, external quality assurance, and future research purposes.”

KNSG expends N850m 

In a related development, the Kano State Government  Monday said it had expended the sum of N850million    on  the procurement of anti-malaria commodities in 2021.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, made the disclosure while briefing journalists on the commemoration of  the WMD in Kano.

He said from the year 2021 to date, the state government had distributed anti-malarial commodities to more than 1300 health facilities for the prevention of malaria, especially among pregnant women and children in the state.

Represented by the director of public health and disease control of the ministry, Dr. Ashiru Rajab, the commissioner said in the year 2021, more than 2.8 million people representing 60 percent outpatient visited hospitals In Kano for malaria treatment.

He maintained that to address these challenges, the state government, between July and October 2021, in collaboration with development partners, administered more than 13 million free doses of malaria prevention drugs to prevent malaria and death in children under five years.

 He noted that in the first quarter of this year, over 376 thousand individuals were diagnosed to have confirmed uncomplicated malaria with over 336 thousand treated with ACTs and 96 cases of mortality recorded.

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