By Hussain Hussain
Malaria has become a “family name”, what better terminology could be used to describe the bug that medical personnel made us believe that every person in this country has the fever causing organism in insignificant amount in their blood and might develop the fever at least once in a year.It is undebatable that every person above ten years has had at least had an episode. Foreigners coming to this country malaria is the top on the warning list (rumored that europeans fear it more than death).
Despite paucity of data and research on malaria, it was recorded by a research that the Hausa community has the highest prevalence of the disease, thanks to our poor drainage system, poverty and government’s lackadaisical effort . Nigeria has the highest malaria burden, with approximately 51 million (30% of total) cases occurring annually and 97% (173 million) of the population are at risk of infection. Moreover, it causes 11% of maternal mortality and 30% of child mortality. All in all, Nigeria has a record of two hundred thousand deaths yearly, more than deaths from all causes in the UK for five years.
Malaria is a major public health problem in more than half of the 193 countries in the world mostly in sub-saharan Africa and South-east Asia where 90% of all malarial deaths occur. There are so many gory statistics of this deadly yet preventable infection. On account of this, the world heath assembly, the highest ruling body of WHO established a goal of reducing malaria cases by 75% between 2005 and 2015, the rates fell by 30%.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium transmitted by the ubiquitous and omnipresent insect, mosquito. Malaria is present in all seasons but more frequent in the rainy season. There are four strains of the parasite viz: falciparum, ovale, vivax, malariae and knowlesi with different prevalence across the world. The falciparum strain is the commonest in Nigeria (97%). The morbid form of the illness is referred to as severe malaria and causes most of the deaths. People at risk include children under five, the aged, persons that are coming from non-endemic country or have left this country for long and are just returning, pregnant women, internally displaced persons. Malnutrition is an all round risk of all diseases.
This devastating disease affects the country’s economic productivity, resulting in an estimated monetary loss of approximately 132 billion Naira (~700 million USD), in treatment costs, prevention, and other indirect cost and 99% is out of pocket payment draining the already meager resources of the people. The cost it wrecks on this nation is better not be calculated, because there are costs that cannot be ascertained, like absence from school or work, etc.
The famous proverb “rigakafi yafi magani” rings truer every passing second. Malaria might be endemic and difficult to get rid of in few years, but it is amenable to prevention. After all the best cure of whatever disease is prevention because of cost effectiveness and convenience. Prevention targets the vector, mosquitoes. Many methods are been used viz: insecticide treated mosquito nets, insecticides, etc. The most convenient method is mosquito nets because insecticides trigger allergy and risk of poisoning, also not cost effective.
Since 2008, the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in Nigeria has adopted a specific plan, the goal of which is to reduce 50 % of the malaria burden by 2013 by achieving at least 80 % coverage of long-lasting impregnated mosquito nets (LLINs), together with other measures, such as 20 % of houses in targeted areas receiving indoor residual spraying (IRS)omen who visit antenatal care clinics. Because of these measures, the percentage of households with at least one LLIN increased to over 70 % by 2010, compared to only 5 % in 2008.
As the Hausa’s put it “kar ayi tuya a manta da albasa”- meaning the most important prevention is drainage of all stagnant waters. Drainage of gutters, covering well properly, emptying tins, cans and pots, doing away with rubbish and containers that accumulate water, and clearing of bushes near the house will reduce the cases in short and long run.
We will be doing ourselves great favour if we really roll back malaria. We will be healthier, more productive and the expenses of malaria could be used to beneficial use. I hope the government and the public will work hand in hand for the attainment of this goal for our collective good.
By Hussain Hussain