US Govt Deplores Nigeria’s Malaria Elimination Programme amid Millions of Dollars Spent

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  •   FG: N132bn spent on disease, bans manufacture, sale of Chloroquine

Paul Obi in Abuja

The United States government monday in strong terms deplored Nigeria’s effort on the Malaria elimination programme spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Health through the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), stating that there were several ‘shortcomings’ in the performance and delivery of the programme amid the millions of dollars spent so far.

Speaking in Abuja at the launch of the Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey, USAID Country Director, Michael Harvey, explained that the outcomes from the implementation of the malaria elimination programme as indicated in the report fell short of expectations in terms of overall performance.
Harvey said: “What is striking is that there continue to be imported nets, and we do yet have an industry in Nigeria that is producing them at a cost Nigerians can afford. What is very clear from the report however is that there are some immediate to-do in our action list, first people are testing to see if a fever is malaria.

“And this is something that should doable since affordable test kits are readily available either through the public sector or private sector at an affordable cost. Too many medical professionals are still treating without testing and this is easy to fix but the men and women need to be taught about changing that culture in the Nigerian medical professional.

“Second, we are not treating malaria proper. I am surprised to find out when you travel around Nigeria Chloroquine is available and too readily prescribed as a treatment for malaria. Worst, this is actually a major public policy that we have to get on top of. We are still producing Chloroquine in Nigeria, a drug that has no beneficial use either for malaria or any other use. We have some challenges, and for those who are in the front lines of providing health care to the poorest, and it is always important to bear the greatest burden. We must get on top of these short comings,” Harvey stated.

The USAID Country Director added that though US government remain prepared to be a partner with Nigeria, “we have a long way to go. So please support your health workers, support your communities, health volunteers, get them the tools they need, let’s get on top of it. We have seen across Africa, tremendous decline in Malaria across the continent. We are behind, but it is doable, that malaria is eliminable and that is one of the most urgent messages. We have a lot of work to do and let’s do it.”

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who launched Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey report said: “No other disease has affected Nigeria like Malaria, given that Malaria is responsible for 11 per cent for maternal mortality, responsible for 25 per cent of infant mortality and 35 per cent of under-five mortality.

“And it is the single most important reason why any Nigerians visit a health facility. 60-70 per cent consultation and hospitals visits are due to malaria, and therefore this is one major problem we must face. And when we invest in this war, the savings would be huge.

According to Adewole, Nigeria “loses about N132 billion to malaria, and these are savings that could be ploughed back into our economy if appropriately used” as malaria remained “a major public health challenge.

The 2015 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey report is aimed at measuring “progress on malaria elimination implementation efforts” with the objective of ensuring that “by 2020, that no child or adult die from malaria related ailment.”

He argued that though there are still gaps in completely eliminating the disease, “there have been improvements in the implementation of malaria programmes.”

The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs. Amina Bello, represented by the Director of Public Health, Mrs. Evelyn Ngige, stated that the survey “data collection process involved a total of 375 terms of data collectors and provides important nationally representative data on malaria.”

She further stated that notwithstanding the challenges confronting government on malaria elimination, “considerable effort has been made by government and partners to reverse these grim indices.”

The Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Chief Eze Duruiheoma (SAN), observed that the survey is very key to the fight against malaria, assuring that, NPC will continue to fulfill its mandate of providing efficient and accurate health care data for the country.

The survey was supported by USAID, UKAID, the Global Fund, WHO, UNICEF, Centre for Disease Control among other organisations