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World Malaria Day: Nigerian should sleep under ITNs – WHO

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By Ibeneme Ebelechukwu, Abuja

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world in marking this year’s World Maria day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called all Nigerians to ensure they sleep under insecticide-treated nets as a way of preventing being attacked by malaria fever.

The WHO country representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, made this call in Abuja while giving his good will message to mark this year’s World Malaria Day in Abuja.

According to him, malaria is preventable and curable. “Simple interventions such as sleeping inside insecticide treated nets, ensuring that every suspected case of malaria is tested and if positive treated with Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACTs), prevention of malaria in pregnancy through use of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP-IPTp) among other preventive strategies.

“As we have heard at different fora, Malaria remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria. With all Nigerians at risk, it accounts for more than 60% of hospital visits, >20% of under 5 mortality and 11% of maternal mortality.

“What is even more worrisome is that, despite funding from government and partners, 44% of household out of pocket expenditure is on malaria. It is estimated that malaria causes a significant loss in economic growth and puts a strain on household finances.

He further lamented that despite the overall progress made in the first 15 years of this century, global trends in malaria case and mortality rates have been plateauing since 2015, particularly in the highest burden countries; Nigeria is one. 

“The World Malaria Report of 2020 estimated that, 215 million malaria cases and 384 000 malaria deaths occurred in 2019 within the WHO African Region and this accounted for 94% of cases and deaths globally. Nigeria continues to bear the disproportionate brunt of the malaria toll accounting for 27% and 23% of global cases and deaths respectively.

He, however, added that WHO has developed the High Burden to High Impact (HBHI) approach aimed at enabling countries to rethink the strategies for malaria control and elimination. “This process provided the right impetus for the development of the current malaria strategic plan, which provides clear direction towards using stratified and evidence-based information to drive impact, through a combination of tailored interventions that work, in the context of sustainable and resilient health system. 

He noted that only collective action across sectors is crucial to address the challenges and accelerate progress towards ending the malaria scourge in Nigeria.

“Finally, let me pledge WHO’s commitment to continuing partnership with FMoH/National Malaria Eradication Program (NMEP) and all other malaria partners through provision of technical support, and innovations towards the attainment of the set targets and as well as successfully leverage on the country’s primary health care strengthening initiatives to control malaria in Nigeria.

The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day, “Zero Malaria” – Draw the Line Against Malaria, is a reiteration of the personal commitments made during the 2020 commemoration. It re-emphasizes the need for collective responsibility towards ending the devastating scourge of a disease that is preventable and curable. Today therefore is a reminder to every individual, community, stakeholder, organisations and government to accelerate actions required to end the disease.

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