For Nigeria to join the league of countries who have been certified malaria-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is imperative for the federal government to scale up its budgetary allocation to healthcare, as malaria is a disease of under-development and poverty, the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria(PSN) Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa, has said.
The PSN President, who decried the prevalence of the disease in the country in spite of progress made so far in combating the disease, said Nigeria still ranks among countries with lowest coverage of pregnant women receiving doses of intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp3).
He said : “Nigeria needs to rethink her budget and investment in infrastructure especially the health sector for stronger and robust healthcare systems which can withstand pressure in the face of a pandemic.
“Continuous improvement against malaria can only be achieved with increased investment, and World Malaria Day presents an opportunity to remind world leaders of their commitments to end this preventable and treatable disease. There is need for increased funding to cover all those at risk of malaria infection and improve on research and development”, he quipped.
Ohuabunwa, who spoke through a press release commemorating World Malaria Day, which is marked every 25 April, said the day presents world leaders with the opportunity to deliberate on best strategies to overcome the preventable disease.
With the 2020 theme of the global celebration as “Zero malaria begins with me”, sustained from World Malaria day 2019, sponsored by WHO and the RBM Partnership to end malaria; he said the day educates citizens in malaria endemic countries on simple malaria prevention methods and the need for investment toward malaria eradication.
As COVID-19 pandemic challenges the entire world, Ohuabunwa remarked, the importance of strong health systems to fight deadly infectious diseases like malaria, becomes more obvious, he noted.
Citing statistics from the 2019 World Malaria Report, he said pasmodium falciparum is the most prevalent malaria parasite in Nigeria accounting for 99.7 per cent of estimated malaria cases, with under 5 years children, pregnant women and immunocompromised persons as most vulnerable.
In ending this preventable disease, he noted the role and commitment of community, national and global leaders to ensure ending malaria remains a priority on the global agenda.
The statement reads in part:
“Where are we as a country?
Nigeria is far from becoming malaria free but is making remarkable progress.
“According to WHO , world malaria report of December 2019, Nigeria, came from almost 153 000 deaths in 2010 to about 95 000 deaths in 2018, accounting for almost 24% of all global malaria deaths. In all of the 11 malaria endemic countries, at least 40% of the population at risk were sleeping under long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), the highest percentage being in Uganda (80%) and the lowest in Nigeria (40%). Providing Free nets and improvement in electricity supply will positively impact on the use of LLINs.
“In pregnant women receiving doses of intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp3) in 2018, Nigeria’s coverage was about 30% or less and ranked also one of the lowest.
“The present COVID-19 pandemic is a drama rehearsal of the worst to come.Most world leaders today are more national than global oriented.
“Several countries shot their doors to export of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) within the pandemic.
“America has threatened to halt her part of WHO funding of about 12% of WHO’s annual spending. We need to get to work now.
“We cannot continue to depend on handouts.
Malaria is a disease of under development and poverty, that is why it has taken forever to develop vaccines against malaria, which may not be the priority of the West.
“RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) is the first and, to date, the only vaccine that shows it can significantly reduce malaria, and life-threatening severe malaria, in young African children. The clinical trial is yet to come to Nigeria.
“While we commend the proactive initiative of the CBN for the 100 Billion Pharma industry intervention funds, and hope for a timely disbursement devoid of unnecessary bureaucracies, we note that there are still a lot of gaps in funding Research and development.
“The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development ( NIPRD) and the Schools of Pharmacy in Nigeria have all it takes to make Nigeria a hub for APIs but grossly underfunded.
“Unless we take charge of malaria interventions, elimination and eradication of the disease may not be near.
“Deliberate attention should be paid to the community pharmacists who provide over 60% of the malaria interventions in our country.
Government should structure single digit, less encumbered loans to assist the business aspect of the Practice to improve availability and access to medicines. It is a core responsibility of government to ensure affordable Pharmaceutical care for its citizens.
“Malaria rapid test kits should be dropped at community Pharmacies for free testing of patients prior to commencement of chemotherapy.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, through her technical groups, has continued to invest in the capacity development of Pharmacists for delivery of world class Pharmaceutical care to consumers of healthcare in Nigeria.
“Pharmacists are ever ready to offer their expertise for greater health of Nigerians”.