As The World Marks Malaria Day …

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Today is World Malaria Day. The global event which takes place on 25th of April, every year, is used to highlight global efforts against malaria and to celebrate the gains that have been made by those in some endemic countries.
This year’s World Malaria Day theme: “Ready to Beat Malaria” underscores the collective energy and commitment of the global community towards freeing the world from one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history.
The Tide notes that the world has, indeed, made historic progress against this deadly disease. There has been a steep decline in malaria cases around the globe since 2010, as many nations with endemic records were said to have exited the malaria radar. The World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows that malaria related deaths have fallen from 655,000 in 2010 to 445,000 in 2016.
In spite of this progress, however, we observe that the danger is still very much with us, especially in the sub-Saharan Africa where the disease has continued to deal fatal blow on many people. Its burden is greatest and more noticeable among the poorest and the most vulnerable members of society, with pregnant women and children under the age of five as the worst victims.
Recent statistics from WHO indicate that the disease is still prevalent in 91 countries with at least 80 per cent of infections and deaths now concentrated in Nigeria and 18 other countries.
For instance, in 2016 alone, 91 countries recorded a staggering 216 million cases of malaria, five million higher than the 211 cases reported in 2015. Of these figures, the African region, according to WHO, continues to bear 90 per cent of malaria burden and 91 per cent of malaria deaths worldwide, with Nigeria accounting for 27 per cent of malaria cases and 24 per cent of malaria deaths globally.
The renewed rise in malaria cases, we observe, is due to a number of reasons including inadequate funding, sharp practices in the distribution of free drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets, and sale of fake and substandard malaria drugs in the market. This, to us, is unacceptable.
We fear that unless urgent actions are taken to check this upsurge, the major gains already recorded against malaria will be lost, while the 2030 global malaria target may be a mirage.
In other words, the world and indeed, Africa need to do more to beat malaria and save more lives who will otherwise needlessly die of the disease. With renewed focus and commitment, we believe that the world can end this disease that claims a child’s life every two minutes.
As the world may have noticed, the drop in malaria cases between 2010 and 2015 can be traced to advances in diagnostic tests and treatment, increased use of insecticide-treated bed nets and effective drug therapies. But statistics show that funding for malaria control and elimination has reduced in recent times, with only 2.7 billion US dollars invested in malaria programmes in 2016. This amount represents less than half (41 per cent) of the estimated 6.5 billion US dollars needed annually to eliminate the malaria scourge. We think that this insufficient funding from both local and international communities may have resulted in major gaps witnessed in recent times.
We, therefore, urge that these gaps be urgently bridged in order to achieve the 2030 global malaria target. In addition to more investments in the deployment of insecticide-treated bed nets, drugs and other critical life-saving tools, we believe that the exploration of new interventions that target outdoor-biting mosquitoes is key to achieving this goal. Also imperative is the development of new chemical formulations needed to mitigate the threat of insecticide resistance.
While we appreciate the efforts made so far by Nigerian governments at all levels in the fight against malaria, we enjoin them to do more by ensuring that citizens have full access not only to functional health facilities, but also qualified personnel with requisite knowledge of malaria treatment.
We also urge the government to monitor the distribution and use of free malaria drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets across the country while also embarking on vigorous public enlightenment on the subject. We say this because we observe that more than 50 per cent of malaria drugs and tools distributed free by government are diverted for sale even in public hospitals by some unscrupulous elements, in spite of the notice on them. This is appalling and unacceptable.
Meanwhile, we urge individuals, corporate and non-governmental organisations, as well as the media to join hands with the government to fight the malaria scourge in the country. As this year’s World Malaria Day theme suggests, we should all be ready to beat malaria even before the 2030 target date to end malaria. The question now is, how ready are we?