As the world battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers and other stakeholders in the campaign to eliminate malaria are calling for appropriate funding for malaria as it was done for COVID to avert what they described as ‘unacceptable’ deaths from the disease.
According to them, the latest report from the World Health Organisation, WHO showed that an estimated 90,000 Nigerians died of malaria in 2020 and if nothing urgent is done, the deaths which reduced from 150 a decade ago will double.
The experts also lamented the lack of capability to develop a vaccine for the elimination of malaria in Nigeria even as other many countries have leveraged science and technology to end malaria.
Speaking during the Centre for Malaria Research, Diagnosis, Training, and Policy, University of Lagos 2021 World Malaria Day Colloquium with the theme: “Reaching the Zero Malaria Target” , Consultant Medical Parasitologist and Director, Prof Wallington Oyibo said there was the need for government, private sector and individuals to push for malaria funding just like they did for the COVID-19 pandemic.
For him, malaria is fast killing children and pregnant women on a daily basis than the COVID-19.
“We know that there is quite a huge death burden for malaria and that’s still very important. It still kills and we know that in the past seven years.
“The mortality due to malaria in Nigeria is still about 90, 000 and it has come down from where it was, from about 150, 000 plus over a decade ago but the death concerning malaria is unacceptable and people are not talking about it, it’s unacceptable.”
He said although we have different diseases with their burden one disease cannot override the other one especially when these deaths are happening, “so that gives the credence to our match towards zero malaria target.”
“COVID-19 test is about N50, 000 and malaria test is within N200 and N500. Let us put that same level of investment we put into COVID-19 into malaria. The investment is critical in attaining these zero targets for malaria and we want to see that reduction.
“Investments such as financial, support for the movement of commodities for malaria, as some commodities may not get to their target because there is no logistic funding components, private groups that do haulage should help provide that services from one place to another; as well as advertisement support to create awareness. People die of common malaria.”
Responding to questions on why Nigeria is yet to produce a vaccine for malaria, he lamented the lack of capability to develop vaccines for the elimination of malaria, particularly as many other countries have leveraged science and technology to end malaria.
Speaking, the Deputy Director, Lagos State Malaria Programme Manager, Dr Abimbola Oshinowo, said the quickest and easiest way to ensure that people do not get infected with malaria was through the use of the long-lasting insecticide nets and adhering to a clean environment as the universal strategies for the prevention of malaria. Oshinowoe added that the attitude of Nigerians was hindering the efforts at eliminating the disease and reaching the WHO target for zero malaria.
In his presentation, entitled: “Investing and Embracing New Technologies in Reaching Zero Malaria Target”, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, FYODOR Biotechnologies, Dr Eddy Agbo, also urged governments, individuals, and philanthropists to give the same attention, they gave to COVID-19 to malaria, adding that, Nigeria may record more deaths from malaria if nothing is done.
“We are in a malaria crisis and we require the same level of urgency, the same level of intervention that we have in the COVID-19 to apply the same to address malaria because when you look at it malaria kills way more people, 90,000 people died last year from malaria, according to the World Health Organisation and that is a low estimate.
“Those are the reported cases, which were done unlikely, so when you look at that number there is no reason why we should be losing that number of people every year.”
Agbo said other countries have leveraged technology and increased investment in combating malaria as it kills more people than the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said while a high momentum is given to address COVID-19 in the country, the Malaria burden has been neglected as the cases and deaths are underreported, with the few reported showing high death and infection rate.
“We need a massive buildup of the private sector, It is not just the health sector problem. What we did with COVID-19 where banks and oil industry came together and individual stepped up, we need that type of momentum, perhaps driven by the government to put money on the table.’”
He said to achieve zero malaria; the country needs more financial interventions as well as supporting indigenous-driven technologies to address the issue.