Every year on 25th of April, World Malaria Day is observed to raise awareness about the vector-borne disease. The commemoration aims to create awareness on malaria prevention/control, renew political, domestic and international commitments, fight malaria and advocate for disease funding. It also affords the opportunity to bring to fore the devastating effect of malaria on families, communities and the economy.
World Malaria Day focuses on a specific theme every year and this year the theme is ‘Zero malaria starts with me’. As per the theme, the focus of the programme this year is on empowering communities across various countries to take ownership of preventing malaria and providing proper care of the treatment to those in need. A case study of Nigeria which depends heavily on foreign funds, donor agencies, foreign aid programmes is cheery and demoralizing on key aspects that affect the wellbeing of its citizens. This is in tandem with government to rise to the task in planning and providing more on the funding and subsidising malarial treatment and drugs. It should also provide enabling environment to encourage local production of drugs.
Malaria still remains a public health concern, a major cause of mortality and morbidity, especially among children under five and pregnant women. It continues to threaten the lives of people despite huge funds made available to restore normalcy. Indeed, there is no issue of greater importance than realizing the fact that “one disease” apart from the huge toll it exacts on health budget, is making life simply unbearable for children, pregnant women and the aged.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a first generation vaccine known as RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa. The vaccine provides partial protection against malaria among young African children, the population most affected by the disease. Piloting of the world’s first anti-malaria vaccine for children aged between six months and two years will begin in the country from May 1 this year. The vaccine — Mosquirix or RTS,S is being introduced as a boost to Africa’s National Anti-Malaria Programme with a trial.
There is no gainsaying that this development is novel as malaria is leading the majority of people into the trap of chronic poverty where poor households are compelled to expend large amount of money on treatments of the disease. Populations exposed to the unremitting impact of malaria always have lived and died in destitution of one degree or another as a result of a gap between the concept in ideas and the practical steps taken to get results.
Undoubtedly, the demoralizing aspect is that malaria has disrupted not only families and communities, but also the entire growth and development of the country. It slows development, especially with regard to the state economy in diverting developmental capital to finance healthcare. It is an undisputed fact that the growth of every economy depends heavily on the health conditions of its labour force.
Currently less attention is also being paid to preventive medicine as it appears certain diseases are being intrinsically linked to the environment and lifestyles; most diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia can be reduced by low cost mechanisms. A typical case in Nigeria is the devastating environment especially inhabited by many city dwellers; inadequate waste disposal nationwide coupled with poor drainage systems. Common sense tells us that prevention is better than cure as more children die because of this failure by governments. Most of our gutters are uncovered or if covered are not deep enough and are chocked with pure water sachets and black bags.
Though awareness of malaria has been on the increase, there is still more to be done. The philosophy of Malaria Day should be everyday commitment, focused on fighting this ancient disease—which has become a modern–day health issue.
Yusuf Hassan Wada, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto
WHY KATSINA THIRSTS
I served my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) stint in Katsina, Katsina State, and that town turned out to be a great place to live and go to in the mid-1990s. Thus now I could empathise when the news media report that Katsina thirsts for potable water, that which should not be a problem in the second decade of the 21st century but, alas, it is one huge scalable hurdle that we have simply ignored. The combined 16-year stint of Governors Umar Musa Yar’Adua and Ibrahim Shema of the PDP ensured that potable water was piped to households in urban areas where the need was greatest but the four-year stint of the APC governor, Ibrahim Masari, tanked every good deed the PDP executed, and now plumbing works are rusting away all over town and isn’t Katsina the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari? If there were Katsina visionaries at all, they would have realised that a town on the edge of the Sahel is one that needs urgent water management culture and sustainable exploitation of groundwater reservoir-sources but this APC government covers up its gross incompetence by playing to the gallery in dishonest fashion. Now, all the efforts (time and resources) expended to put certain chieftains of the PDP down this past four years would have been committed to a national programme of potable water-works centred on the Niger-Benue confluence at Lokoja whence potable water would be piped to major urban centres in the far north. This is simple visionary planning that escaped the honcho at the top, and this is sad indeed.