Global Fund partners raise SOS on malaria, decry US$3bn annual loss
Posted by News Express | 10 October 2016 | 1,820 times
Collaborating partners in the Global Fund for Malaria programme, the National Malaria Elimination Programme and the Society for Family Health, have raised an alert concerning the threat malaria poses to the country, citing a loss of US$3bn annually. The amount is from expenditure on prevention and treatment by citizens as well as statistics on other areas of loss due to the disease.
They called for enhanced information and better use of malaria commodities to reduce the incidence and harmful effects of the disease. In particular, the collaborating partners in the Global Fund for Malaria New Funding Model programme to reduce the scourge want the media and health authorities to intensify awareness and education about the disease. They say Nigerians take the disease for granted to the peril of citizens.
Dr Audu Bala Mohammed, the National Coordinator of the National Malaria Elimination Programme, and Mr Bright Ekweremadu, Managing Director of the Society for Family Health, appealed jointly to the media to increase the visibility of malaria and showcase available malaria interventions in the country.
The implementing partners state that while the statistics are sobering, Nigeria has made significant progress over the last five years in the fight against malaria. The interventions include prevention of malaria transmission through integrated vector management strategy, prompt diagnosis and adequate treatment of clinical cases at all levels and in all sectors of health care as well as prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy.
They are promoting the use of Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets, use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests to clearly identify malaria and distinguish it from other frequent fevers, and encouraging citizens to use personal protection measures. These actions include distribution and promotion of the use of insecticides, repellent coils, creams as well as products with insect-killing or repellent properties like wristbands, air-conditioners, special light, special rackets, creams and gels.
They also seek the support of players in the media and entertainment eco-systems. Nollywood personality Kate Henshaw signed on to the malaria advocacy programme Thursday, October 6, at a parley the organisations held with health editors. Similarly, the cast of Papa Ajasco and Co including Nnenna and Friends also signed up for the advocacy programme.
Kate Henshaw decried the attitude of Nigerians who look down on the sickness or consider it with condescending familiarity despite the harm it causes.
Henshaw stated: “In those days, people spoke about malaria as if it belonged to them with expressions like ‘I have malaria,' ‘my malaria’ and ‘ordinary malaria’. Surprisingly, after many years, these terms are still common place among family members, colleagues, and friends, irrespective of class or level of education.”
She declared: “I have committed myself to support the fight against malaria in Nigeria by letting people know the benefits of sleeping inside the Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets, in particular for children under 5 and pregnant women. It is also very important to have a Rapid Diagnostic Test done, or microscopy was done to be sure it is malaria before administering treatment with Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy – ACT.”
Financially, experts working with public health NGO The Society for Family Health report, “About three billion US dollars is lost to malaria yearly due to out of pocket treatment and prevention costs”.They note that this amount “could pay the annual salaries of 2.2million Nigerians on minimum wage.”
In socio-economics, malaria is also “one of the leading causes of absenteeism in schools, offices and markets, and affects the national economy.”
The health costs are also high. Malaria accounts for about six out of 10 out-patient visits and three of 10 admissions in healthcare facilities. They further state that malaria accounts for 11% of maternal mortality and three of 10 deaths in children less than five years.
With malaria, SFH says, ignorance is deadly. Studies by the organisation that works in several areas of public health show that a significant contributor to malaria’s deadly count in Nigeria is inadequate knowledge and information on the part of caregivers and the citizenry.
SFH states that “caregivers are inadequately empowered with appropriate health education to change their behaviour and use of malaria commodities” with consequences for prevention and treatment of the ailment.
Only two of 10 caregivers use Artemisinin Combination Therapy, the gold standard, to treat malaria in children under five years. Only three out of 10 children received treatment within 24 hours when they had malaria.
Even with the treatment, the statistics show that caregivers tested only one out of 20 children before treatment. The situation was the same with adults.
On the part of citizens, even as there is high awareness about the causes of malaria (mosquito bites), less than half of all households own recommended Long Lasting Insecticide Nets. Even worse, only 35% of family members slept inside LLIN nets where available.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international financing organisation that aims to “attract and disburse additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.”
Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases. The Global Fund raises and invests nearly US$4billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in countries and communities most in need.
•Photo shows celebrity anti-malaria advocate, Kate Henshaw.