Malaria is one of the most prevalent human infections worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria.
The disease is mostly spread through bites from female anopheles mosquitoes, blood transfusion and contaminated needles. Although preventable and curable, it can be termed a life-threatening disease. It is a leading cause of death. The recent World Malaria Report from WHO shows that in 2021, there were 247 million estimated cases of malaria worldwide, with an estimated number of 619,000 malaria deaths.
Despite malaria being a global concern, the disease is mostly found in tropical and subtropical continents, with Africa being the most affected due to prevalent factors like local weather conditions and socio-economic instability. According to the World Malaria Report, Africa is home to about 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of deaths, with four African countries – Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Republic of Tanzania and Niger – accounting for half of all malaria deaths worldwide, and Nigeria taking the lead with (31.3%).
Fortunately, despite the alarming numbers, there has been a significant decrease in the number of malaria patients and deaths in Africa, especially in Nigeria. Statistics from the Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey, shows that there continues to be a year-on-year decrease in the number of malaria cases. The decrease can be attributed to the Nigerian government’s conscious efforts towards eradicating the disease by implementing relevant policies and ensuring that young children and pregnant women, who are most vulnerable to the disease are protected. A good example of this is President Muhammadu Buhari’s recently launched End Malaria Council (EMC), with Aliko Dangote as chairman, to eliminate malaria in Nigeria within the next eight years.
International bodies and organisations like the World Health organisation (WHO), Christian Aid, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) are also working hand-in-hand to eradicate malaria in Nigeria.
Commendably, private organisations and individuals in Nigeria, are also at the fore-front of this fight against Malaria in Nigeria. A great example is the Y’ello Doctor initiative by the MTN Foundation. Currently in its third phase, the project is aimed at providing support to the Nigerian Primary Health Care (PHC) system through the use of mobile medical trucks. The trucks are fully equipped with medications required for the treatment of regular basic diseases like diarrhoea, respiratory tract infection, hepatitis and malaria.
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Highlighting how the Y’ello Doctor is fighting malaria in Nigeria, Odunayo Sanya, Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation revealed that over the years, the Y’ello Doctor has been deployed to different states across Nigeria to provide access to basic healthcare for those in rural areas. She also added that within the last year, the Y’ello Doctor has treated over 9,000 malaria cases across the six states (Anambra, Gombe, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, and Rivers states), where the mobile trucks are currently operating. This is a great step towards tackling the prevalence of malaria in Nigeria, and also ensuring that the mortality rate attributed to malaria in Nigeria is greatly reduced.
As we celebrate World Malaria Day today, it is imperative for everyone to remember that Nigeria still has a long way to go in the eradication of malaria. It is important that individuals in Nigeria also participate in ensuring the reduction and eradication of malaria, by avoiding mosquito breeding grounds within our surroundings, using insecticide-treated nets to protect those at risk of malaria, and indoor residual spraying where appropriate. Like the World Health Organisation has prescribed, the most effective way to eradicate malaria is simply by prevention.