• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Despite population 7 times Nigeria’s, China gives malaria final blow

Despite population 7 times Nigeria’s, China gives malaria final blow

After seven decades of wrestling with malaria, China on Wednesday dealt the final blow to the deadly disease, demonstrating that commitment to medical research and funding can halt a country’s malaria scourge despite huge population size.

The Asian giant grapples with 1.4 billion population, a size seven times Nigeria’s but that did not get in its way of ranking among 40 countries globally certified Malaria-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Its strategies are not out of this world. China offers a basic public health service package for its residents without charge, giving all and sundry access to affordable services for the diagnosis and treatment of malaria, regardless of legal or financial status.

It applied a multi–sector approach that had 13 ministries health, education, finance, research and science, development, public security, the army, police, commerce, industry, information technology, media and tourism join stop malaria in its tracks in 2010.

Read Also: US doles out $90m to tackle malaria in 8 disadvantaged Nigerian states

To reduce its malaria caseload, the country introduced the “1-3-7” strategy: “1” signifying the one-day deadline for health facilities to report a malaria diagnosis; by the end of day 3, health authorities are required to confirm a case and determine the risk of spread; and, within 7 days, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent further spread of the disease.

China, acknowledging that the risk of malaria importation may persist, to prevent re-establishment of the disease, the country has beefed up surveillance at-risk zones using regional malaria control initiatives.

“Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal,” Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general said congratulating China.

Covid-19 appears to be the only disease that has been treated with a level of priority close to this in Nigeria.

Read Also: Nigeria loses $1.1bn yearly to mosquito bites

Many pundits have argued that Nigeria could have shed considerable weight carrying the greatest burden of malaria globally; if it handled malaria in the manner Covid-19 has been treated.

“Yearly in Nigeria, over 150,000 people die from Malaria. About 50,000 women die from pregnancy and childbirth yearly. Over 40, 000 children die from diarrhoea and other preventable diseases. 2,000 died from Covid-19,” Ola Brown, founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group, said in a tweet.

Although malaria prevalence in Nigeria declined from 42 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2020, malaria is still endemic in the country.

Nigeria accounts for 27 percent of the global malaria cases and 23 percent of global malaria deaths based on the 2020 World Malaria Report by WHO.

Christopher Ajufo, a Texas-based medical doctor urged that more countries facing shortages in resources such as Nigeria should place focus on health issues that constitute huge threats to public health like malaria.

“There are more deadly infectious diseases in the African continent. Those deserve more attention. I wouldn’t recommend giving the highest priority to COVID 19. More people will die of HIV and malaria this year on the continent, than could possibly be killed by the Coronavirus,” Ajufo, said.

As of June 30, Nigeria has so far had 167, 000 cases of Covid-19 and 2,119 deaths.

China on the other hand is malaria-free and on the prowl for outbreak attempts. The feat comes as an offshoot of efforts invested in the past.

Part of the ground laying done in the 1950s was to reduce mosquito breeding grounds and stepping up the use of insecticide spraying in homes in some areas.

In 1967, the Chinese government launched a nationwide research programme aimed at finding new treatments for malaria. This effort, involving more than 500 scientists from 60 institutions led to the discovery in the 1970s of artemisinin – the core compound of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the most effective antimalarial drugs available today.

In the 1980s, China was one of the first countries in the world to extensively test the use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) for the prevention of malaria, well before nets were recommended by WHO for malaria control.

By the end of 1990, the number of malaria cases in China had plummeted to 117 000, and deaths were reduced by 95 percent.

In 2020, after reporting 4 consecutive years of zero indigenous cases, China applied for an official WHO certification of malaria elimination.

Nigeria’s government aims to reduce malaria prevalence to a parasite prevalence of fewer than 10 people and mortality attributable to malaria to less than 50 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2025 as reflected in the new malaria strategic plan 2021 to 2025.

It can borrow a leaf from China on following through.