Monday Editorial


There is still much to do to rout the malaria scourge

As people across the world today mark the 2016 Malaria Day with the theme, “End Malaria for Good”, it is another reminder to the health authorities in Nigeria that this is still one battle that needs to be won, even when gains have been made in recent years. “While efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria have gained important momentum over the past years, an annual shortfall in funding threatens to slow down progress, particularly across Africa where high-burden countries are facing critical funding gaps,” said a statement from the World Health Organisation (WHO)at the weekend.
As we have stated in the past, many citizens would gladly wish that the problem of malaria in Nigeria can be solved at the mere mounting of insecticide-treated mosquito nets. But with the environmental conditions and associated ailments, which have all combined to make malaria a scourge for both the young and old, especially the millions of pregnant women and young children under the age of five, the statistics of deaths from the disease remain startling high.

What makes the situation particularly worrisome is that there is a significant slowdown in global funding of anti-malaria campaigns which may roll back impressive gains made against the mosquito-borne disease over the last decade. In its World Malaria Report 2012, for instance, WHO noted that rapid expansion in global funding for malaria prevention and control between 2004 and 2009 levelled off between 2010 and 2012. Yet statistics revealed that malaria struck an estimated 219 million people across the world in 2010, killing about 660,000, mostly children under five years of age.
Not too long ago, the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria said that more than 90 per cent of the world’s malaria deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, adding that approximately $3.6 billion additional funding was required for anti-malaria programmes within region until the end of 2015. The funds that were garnered for combating the disease within the period in question were not anyway near that figure.
However, the situation is not all bleak. The World Bank has revealed that over the past decade, 11 African countries have reduced malaria cases by more than 50 per cent. The Bank has also reported steady progress in Nigeria. The National Malaria Control Programme is moving to increase access to malaria prevention, treatment services and community mobilisation so as to reduce the burden of the disease. However, combating malaria requires multifaceted actions and partnerships involving public and private, international and civil society sectors.
To the extent that defeating malaria is critical to ending poverty and improving maternal and child health, Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind and it is for this reason that we must commend the efforts of former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose foundation is partnering with an American based organisation, Moskeeto Armor, in the bid to protect children on the continent against malaria and other vector-borne diseases. “The simple principle of ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ lays a foundation of commitment to protecting nations,” said Jonathan during the meeting with Moskeeto Armor in New York, United States at the weekend. “These crises caused by such small insects, transmitting these deadly diseases, have devastated so many lives across Africa and the world, but with one just as small idea, there is hope for a better tomorrow.”
As the world marks the 2016 Malaria day, with the most appropriate theme of ending the disease for good, the hope is that Nigerian health authorities will adopt the best possible strategy and partnership that will help in the efforts to eventually eradicate the scourge from our country.