Over 100 million Nigerians are at risk of malaria, while about 300,000 deaths still occur in the country due to the disease. But Reckitt Benckiser, through its ‘One Act Against Malaria’ hopes to change the narrative. Martins Ifijeh writes
While many countries have been able to reduce the burden of malaria to an insignificant level in recent times, there still exist about 500 million persons globally who are at risk of the lethal fever. And out of which, almost two million persons, especially children below the ages of five lose their lives yearly to the disease.
Statistics by the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), say out of those dying yearly from malaria, children of under five years old constitute over a million. That is one child dying every 30 seconds, amounting to about 3,000 child deaths every day globally.
But what is more worrisome is that a concentrated 90 per cent of those affected live in sub-Sahara Africa according to UNICEF, which means about 900 children below five years old die every year from malaria, a health issue the World Health Organisation (WHO) had said was preventable.
Unfortunately, Nigeria shares a major chunk of this burden with an estimated 100 million persons said to be at risk of the disease while over 300,000 lives are lost yearly in the country, according to the Marketing Director, Reckitt Benckiser (RB) West Africa, Leferink Aliza.
Society for Family Health (SFH) says malaria accounts for about six out of 10 out-patient visits and three of 10 admissions in healthcare facilities in Nigeria, adding that malaria accounts for 11 per cent of maternal mortality and three of 10 deaths in children less than five years in the country.
No wonder the international health body, during a meeting with Health Editors in Lagos few months ago, said the burden of the disease in Nigeria was making the country lose at least three billion U.S. dollars yearly. An amount it said could pay the annual salaries of 2.2 million Nigerians or revamp the economy of the country.
This is even as experts have stated that the disease is a major cause of absenteeism in schools, offices and markets, thereby significantly and negatively affecting the economic growth of the country.
In the same vein, a recent publication in Malaria Journal suggests that it accounts for poor school performance, which on the long run has a toll on the economy despite direct financial loss to treatment, advocacy and prevention of the disease in low and middle income countries like Nigeria.
According to experts, malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease, caused by parasitic protozoans (a type of single cell microorganism) of the Plasmodium type. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma or death.
It is in tackling all of these, including the high deaths, high cases and financial burden on the country that Reckitt Benckiser (RB) Nigeria, makers of Mortein insecticides, collaborated with the federal government through the federal Ministry of Health, three States; Lagos, Abia and Ogun, as well as the National Malaria Elimination Programme, Abuja, to raise awareness against the deadly fever.
Through its ‘One Act Against Malaria’ campaign, as a build up to the just concluded World Malaria Day, it alongside officials of the federal Ministry of Health, championed interventions in the three states and Abuja with the aim of getting every Nigerian to contribute their own quota to prevention and eradication of the lethal fever from the society.
It reasoned that a little contribution by individuals, families and the society by insisting on the use of long lasting insecticide treated nets, cleaning of the environment, removal of stagnant water, and the use of insecticide spray like Mortein, will go a long way in eradicating the disease from the country.
In Lagos, according to Aliza, 40 markets were visited with free malaria testing, consultation and education through the aid of Market Doctors Against Malaria, adding that this was followed by sanitation exercises in select grassroot communities in the state and other states under focus.
“We made sure we worked with the various states’ health ministries to provide the desired sensitisation, free sanitation and awareness walk, all in a bid to bring the message closer to the people.
“Through the grassroot community engagements, we have been able to educate communities on the importance of hygiene, and how the simple habit of maintaining clean surroundings and drainages can significantly help reduce malaria.
“There are an estimated 100 million malaria cases with over 300,000 deaths per year in Nigeria, mostly among children under the age of five. Malaria is preventable and we have made it our fight to educate Nigerians on how to protect the most vulnerable – pregnant women and children and their families against the disease. This has also leveraged on the Clean Healthy Naija programme which RB is leading across various platforms especially for preventable diseases.”
He said the results from the campaigns and interventions from the various states and Abuja showed that malaria can be eradicated or reduced to the minimum. He said if Nigeria can adhere strictly to the methods, which include use of long lasting insecticide treated nets, ridding stagnant water off their environments, and the use of insecticides like Mortein, malaria will be a thing of the past in the country.
Speaking at the press briefing in Abuja to commemorate the 2017 WMD, the General Manager, RB West Africa, Mr. Rahul Murgai, said the community engagement and collaborations were part of numerous consumer engagement activities to stem the prevalence of malaria disease in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
He said the partnership with the states and federal government, which has been on-going for years, also demonstrates the company’s commitment to the anti-malaria fight in the country towards a clean and healthy Nigeria.
He said, “At RB, our global vision is to have a world where people are healthier and live better. In achieving this, we will continue to make a difference by giving people innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes. We know that regular combined interventions of long lasting insecticide treated nets, Larviciding and insecticide use like Mortein is the solution to achieving a malaria-free Nigeria. Therefore to protect our children and ourselves from getting sick, the first thing to do is to educate ourselves about prevention,” he said.
Reiterating Mortein’s commitment to eradicating malaria, Marketing Manager Mortein, RB West Africa, Bamigbaiye-Elatuyi Omotola stated that Mortein has been at the forefront of the fight against malaria in Nigeria.
“In the past few years, Mortein has partnered with the federal Ministry of Health through the National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP), Lagos State Ministry of Health (LSMOH) and various state ministries of health to foster education on malaria prevention via TV infomercials, education at primary healthcare centres and the Mortein Own a Community Project which has been well executed across all LGA’s in Lagos State.
“We intend to take this a step further by having doctors in markets to do free malaria test and consultation in cities of high prevalence across the country. Additionally, #OneActAgainstMalaria campaign has recently been deployed to bring the message closer by imploring everyone to do one preventive act towards the eradication of malaria within their immediate environment.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, in his address at the Abuja event, said this year’s campaign aims at drawing significant attention to the need to totally eradicate the malaria disease in the country. He commended Mortein for its work and continuous support in the fight against malaria through its collaboration with the government. He therefore pledged the federal government’s commitment to work with RB/Mortein to ensure total eradication of malaria in the country by imploring everyone to do acts against malaria in their community.
The Commissioners for Health in Lagos, Ogun and Abia States also commended Mortein for teaming up with their respective state governments in the fight against malaria.