Not less than 800 Nigerians die every day in the country due to malaria, the Director, Malaria Project, Society for Family Health, Dr. Ernest Nwokolo, has said.
He likened the deaths to the crashing of two Boeing 747 aircraft everyday in the country, adding that if it were plane crashes that were killing 800 Nigerians everyday, by now there would have been a national emergency, not only from the government, but from the citizens in addressing the issue as quickly as possible.
Stating this during a meeting with journalists in Lagos recently, Nwokolo said the number of deaths experienced by the scourge can be reduced drastically if Nigerians no longer embrace malaria as part of their lifestyle or refer to it as ordinary malaria.
“When Nigerians imbibe all preventive measures against the scourge, including keeping their environment clean, removing stagnant water from the environment, consistent use of long lasting insecticide treated nets and proper diagnosis before treatment, it would go a long way in curbing the burden of malaria in the country,” Nwokolo noted.
He, however said, because people were still considering malaria as a blessing and the preferred illness they would rather have than other types of illnesses, it was difficult changing their attitude towards the disease. “We need a behavioural change to achieve this. We need to continuously talk about malaria and its associated risks, preventive approaches and treatment, so that soon there would be a behavioural change. We are appealing to the media to make this happen,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the Head, Case Management Branch, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Dr. Godwin Ntadom said malaria indices was drastically reducing in the country with recent statistics showing its prevalence in Imo State was now 5.1 per cent, while that of Lagos was now less than one per cent. “Malaria indices is near zero in Lagos, and most of those claiming they have malaria in Lagos do not actually have it,” he emphasised.
He said the narrative on malaria was changing in the country due to the reduced prevalence compared to decades ago. ‘’In 1991, the narrative was that if you have fever, it was best to treat for malaria. But in 2011, the policy says when one has fever, its best to go for diagnosis to know if it is malaria or any other ailment,” adding that,for one to be sure he or she was to treat malaria, a diagnosis must first confirm it. “Otherwise, the person might end up treating another illness, while thinking he or she is treating malaria,” he added.
He explained that the fact that there was presence of mosquito does not automatically translate into malaria. “A mosquito can innocently bite you without giving you malaria. For a
mosquito to infect a man, it means it must have first been infected by a man or woman. And once the mosquito is infected, it remains so for life. So anytime it needs blood, it in turn infects its benefactor.”
He lamented that despite efforts in the eradication of malaria globally, sub-Sahara Africa has demonstrated the least commitment towards its elimination.