- Nigeria’s burden of malaria-related deaths (32%) outstrips her actual disease burden (27%).
- To reduce the burden of malaria, Nigeria must harness available innovations in prevention, testing, treatment, and access to care.
The decade’s big decline in malaria burden has slowed down, impacted by the covid19 pandemic, and the persisting poor health infrastructure and system in Nigeria.
Every 25th of April, World Malaria Day commemorates and creates awareness about the burden of malaria in Nigeria and globally. It is also used by local health authorities and non-government organizations to push for policy and funding commitments from partners.
Malaria is preventable and treatable using high-quality medicines readily available throughout the country. The medicines, however, are not cheap and many people struggle to afford them due to poverty. In many homes, the choice is between buying medicines and eating a meal.
In 2021, Nigeria was named, in the World Malaria Report, as one of six countries contributing more than half of the global burden of this disease. Nigeria may actually be doing rather worse than other similar countries at managing the condition as the country’s global burden of malaria-related deaths (32%) was higher than that of the global burden of the condition.
Recent innovations in malaria prevention like the malaria vaccine, use of preventative medicines and health system strengthening may offer new paths to zero malaria in Nigeria. The Federal and State Ministries of Health must, as a matter of urgency, work to harmonize policies and harness these innovations to deliver a new way to get to Zero Malaria.
Innovations like the new vaccine for malaria (Mosquirix) must be made available through innovative funding arrangements. Though approved by the World Health Organization for use in children below two years old , it is not yet available in Nigeria. WHO promised to make it available by the first quarter of this year through her vaccine programme, but this has not happened.
The malaria vaccine can prevent at least one-third of malaria cases and also reduces the severity of the infection.
However, the malaria vaccine cannot reduce the burden of malaria on its own. More is needed.
The use of SPAQ, a combination of Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine and Amodiaquine has been tested and shown to prevent malaria in children. Given monthly, the medicine protects children from malaria infection. This is already in use in Kaduna State and can be important in preventing neonatal morbidity and mortality in places with a high burden of malaria.
When the vaccine and other innovations become available, the Federal and State Ministries of Health must use these in concert with other methods like:
- Use of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLITN).
- Spraying of homes with insecticide.
- Use of preventive medicines in pregnancy.
- Mosquito control in places where people live.
- Treatment of the disease with artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).
- Health system strengthening (e.g. tracking data, health informatics and a malaria registry).
- Rapid diagnostic testing in healthcare facilities.
- Community sensitisation about malaria prevention.
These interventions work together to increase the chances eliminating the malaria parasite in Nigeria. Together they hold the promise of achieving the next drop in malaria infections.