World Malaria Day: Is malaria elimination achievable in Nigeria?

World Malaria Day is observed on April 25 of every year to raise awareness about the life-threatening disease that continues to be a threat to humanity.

The world celebrates Malaria Day to mark the devastating impact of the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this year’s World Malaria Day, with the theme ‘Harness innovation to reduce malaria disease burden and save lives,’ to encourage investments and advances in diagnostic and antimalarial medications.

Malaria is a contagious disease that spreads by the bite of an infected female anopheles mosquito, which carries the plasmodium parasites, which is deposited into a person’s bloodstream when a mosquito bites.

The symptoms of malaria usually appear around 10 days to four weeks after infection, while they can appear as early as seven days or as late as a year later.

This infection can also lay dormant in the liver for months or even years after being bitten by an infected mosquito; this makes the person become sick when these parasites emerge from hibernation and begin to infect the red blood cells.

Malaria makes people unwell and causes high fevers, shivering chills, and flu-like symptoms. Malaria can induce anemia and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) due to the loss of red blood cells. Some side effects of malaria are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Malaria can also result in kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death if there is no prompt treatment of the infection.

Globally, 228 million malaria cases were observed in 2018, compared to 251 million cases in 2010 and 231 million cases in 2017. Malaria also claimed the lives of an estimated 405,000 people worldwide in 2018, up to 416,000 in 2017 and about 585,000 in 2010.

Between 2010 and 2018, the global malaria incidence rate fell from 71 to 57 cases per 1,000 people at risk. However, the pace of change dropped substantially from 2014 to 2018, dropping to 57 in 2014 and maintaining comparable levels through 2018.

However, according to WHO, malaria affected 241 million people worldwide by 2020, and an estimated 627,000 people died from malaria that same year. This showed a rise in the death rate compared to 2018 when 405,000 people died worldwide.

Read also: World Malaria Day and zero burden status in Nigeria

Although, many developed countries with temperate climates have eradicated malaria. For instance, Europe eliminated malaria in the 1970s through insecticide spraying, medication therapy, and environmental engineering.

Also, Maldives (2015), Sri Lanka (2016), Kyrgyzstan (2016), Paraguay (2018), Uzbekistan (2018), Argentina (2019), Algeria (2019), China (2021), and El Salvador (2021) have all been declared malaria-free by the WHO since 2015. Still, people from malaria-free countries can become infected by travelling to malaria-affected areas.

Malaria affects more than half of the world’s population, with poor people having a much higher probability of contracting the disease.

In 2018, the WHO African Region had the most malaria cases (213 million, or 93 percent), followed by the WHO South-East Asia Region (3.4 percent) and the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (2.1 percent).

Furthermore, nearly 85 percent of the global malaria burden is attributable to 19 nations in sub-Saharan Africa and India. Nigeria (25 percent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12 percent), Uganda (five percent), Côte d’Ivoire (4 percent), Mozambique (4 percent), and Niger (4 percent) accounted for more than half of all malaria cases worldwide.

This makes the disease a critical public health issue in many underdeveloped countries, particularly the tropical and subtropical regions.

It is also alarming that malaria is still the number five leading cause of death in Nigeria. Thus, the attainment of morbidity reduction in 2025 and 2030 may be unrealistic unless the necessary actions are established with immediate effect.

To eradicate malaria in Nigeria, there must be tenacious local support and a strong political commitment at the federal and state levels.

At all levels, there must be equal access to malaria health management instruments. This must include training patent medication sellers and awareness of traditional or herbal treatment.

It must include the therapies suggested by the WHO. One of these is vector control, which includes insecticide-treated items, mosquito larvae spraying, and indoor spraying. Diagnostic tests and quick treatment with efficient drugs are the other options.

Furthermore, an individual must be aware of malaria-causing variables, particularly during the humid months of May, June, and July, and adjust their environment by utilising mosquito nets, repellents, and other mosquito-replanting equipment.

In conclusion, malaria is a crucial economic burden on many countries because it causes illness and death. Also, since many malaria-affected countries are already impoverished, the disease perpetuates a vicious cycle of diseases and poverty.

Therefore, investing in malaria prevention and elimination results in healthier and wealthier societies.