The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, has urged Nigerians to stop using chloroquine, or Artemisinin as a monotherapy in treatment of malaria, as he listed steps that Nigerians need to take to combat the killer disease in the country.
Mr. Adewole, a professor of Medicine who was speaking in Abuja on Tuesday at an event to mark the 2017 World Malaria Day, also advised pregnant women during antenatal visits to always ask for Sulphadoxine-Pyrimethamine (SP) doses for intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTP), to save mother and child.
The minister said every Nigerians has a role to play in the elimination of malaria in the country and as such should ensure that they live in a clean environment and drain stagnant water.
He stressed that patients must also challenge healthcare providers on drugs administered at hospitals and always ask for diagnosis before treatment.
“There is a need for every Nigerian and health partners to support the Federal Ministry of Health in its bid to eliminating malaria from the country”, he added.
The World Health Organization has set aside April 25 every year as World Malaria Day to sensitise the populace and assess government efforts at stemming the scourge of malaria and mobilise efforts against the disease.
The theme for this year celebration is “End Malaria for Good”, with an accompanying slogan “What is Your Role”.
The minister said the theme underscores the call to action for concrete steps to be taken individually and collectively towards ending malaria scourge in order to safeguard the physical, economic and social existence of Nigerians.
He said about 90 per cent of the population in the country is at risk, while children and pregnant women are more vulnerable to the disease.
Statistics on Nigeria indicates that malaria is responsible for around 60 per cent of out-patient visits to health facilities, 30 per cent of childhood deaths, 25 per cent of deaths of children under one year and 11 per cent of maternal deaths.
Similarly, about 70 percent of pregnant women suffer from malaria which contributes to maternal anaemia, low birth weight, stillbirth, abortions and other pregnancy-related complications.
Mr. Adewole said this year’s Malaria Day provides a clarion call for all Nigerians to advocate and solicit support for more resources, commodities and requisite policies that will enable them defect malaria, as reducing and eliminating malaria create healthier, more equitable and prosperous societies.
“Nigeria financial loss due to malaria is estimated to be about N300 billion ($ 797 million) annually in form of treatment costs, prevention cost and loss of man-hours”, he noted.
Evelyn Ngige, the Director Public Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, said malaria though preventable has remained a major public health problem in Africa and Nigeria in particular.
“Malaria constitutes a major barrier to social and economic development as it is the greatest public health challenge in Nigeria and we need to change our attitudes and the way we have been doing things to work towards a way we can eliminate the disease from the country”, she said.
Also speaking at the event, Obi Adigwe, Chairman of Malaria Planning Committee, said malaria needs to be in the forefront of engagement across board.
“We need to reappraise our approach in the fight against malaria and what to do best in elimination of the disease from the country. If Morocco can do it then we can too. Health workers need to know best practices in medicine and how to treat malaria, what drugs to use and the easy accessibility of the rapid malaria test kits for diagnosis to give quick results for treatment.
“The legislatures also need to commit more money to the health sector as the government needs to invest more in health and manufacturers too need to do more, especially in terms of contextual researches in drug manufacturing to combat malaria.
“There is a need for more advocacy on malaria prevention and effective treatment so as to be able to successfully eliminate malaria in the country by 2020 in accordance to the millennium development goal”, he added.
Globally, 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with 1.2 billion people at higher risk.
In 2012, malaria was responsible for the death of approximately 482,000 under-five children, even though an estimated 136 million insecticide treated nets (ITNs) were distributed to endemic countries the same year.
The minister assured Nigerians that the socio – economic effects of malaria is not lost on this administration and that this has prompted the restructuring presently going on within the health sector with the sole aim of ensuring effective service delivery nationwide.
Mr. Adewole said the federal government through the National Malaria Elimination Programme, NMEP, in line with the global standard, has instituted the policy of testing before treatment with the deployment of Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kits nationwide as a vector control and prevention of malaria in pregnancy.
He added that presently, diagnostic service for malaria using the test kit can be accessed cheaply at all levels of health care delivery, most especially at community levels.
“We have also encouraged the manufacturing of mosquito nets locally. As of now, we have three companies in Nigeria producing the nets and we are still trying to encourage more local production in order to reduce the cost spent on importation. At least 30 million nets are bought in Nigeria every year”, he said.