Malaria is a global challenge
. More than one million new malaria cases are recorded each year. Nigeria bears a huge part of the burden. An estimated 24 per cent of all malaria cases are recorded in Nigeria, making it the country with the largest burden of the disease.
The vast majority of those most at risk are children under five and pregnant women. A child dies every two minutes and millions more are unwell for several days. More than half of all school absences are due to malaria.
Nigeria has made appreciable progress turning the tide against malaria. Efforts resulted in the reduction of mortality rates among children under five years by 18 per cent, while infection rates declined by 15 per cent. But despite the impressive gains, there is still much to do.
A new global target has been set. The aim is to reduce the global disease burden of malaria by 40 per cent by 2020, and by at least 90 per cent by 2030. It also aims to eliminate malaria in at least 35 countries by 2030.
Nigeria’s ambitious plan to eliminate malaria is in order. It is not only a sound social policy, it is also good business. The fight against malaria is widely recognised as one of the best buys in global development. It is estimated that a 50 per cent reduction in global malaria incidence could produce about N10,000 in economic benefits for every dollar invested. Malaria eradication could deliver more than N500 trillion in economic benefits worldwide and, more importantly, save an estimated 11 million lives every year.
However, there are challenges. These include drug resistance, treatment failure and insecticide resistance. Climate change, internal conflicts, lack of political will and inadequate local research efforts are also parts of the handicaps.
In truth, malaria can be eradicated, but to make this happen, the crucial message that must be passed around is that nobody has to be sick or die of malaria. Sustained action is required to help achieve the elimination goal. If attained, the global vision of ending malaria for good would kick-start a long-term transformative impact, saving millions of lives and generating huge sums. Sustained efforts are critical to addressing the identified challenges.
Local efforts should be the key motivation. The nation’s surveillance systems must be refined and regularly updated to ensure that the global elimination agenda is routinely observed.
Government, the private sector, researchers, individuals, groups and indeed all stakeholders, should act with a shared and focused goal which is to create a Nigeria in which malaria is no longer a threat to the lives and wellbeing of the citizenry. The war to eliminate malaria is an assignment for everyone. Statereporters