Nigeria bears the main brunt of the deleterious effect of Malaria on the African continent year on year, as you read this piece ten children would have been infected with this disease. One out three Nigerian children that are infected with Malaria will die within two days of developing the symptoms.
In Nigeria, Malaria kills over two thousand pregnant women every year. Malaria is endemic in Nigeria as a result at least 50% of the population will have an episode this year, resulting in over a quarter of a million deaths. I can go on reeling out the grim statistics on how Malaria devastates our communities each year, but let me stop for now and look at our present debacle. Like the Americans say we are between a rock and a hard place, as if the burden of Malaria was not enough into it slips the COVID 19 pandemic.
However, as big as the COVID-19 pandemic is, it is nothing compared to the size and scale of the Malaria scourge that has afflicted us for years. Numbers they say don’t lie with a body count in the excess of a quarter of a million, it means we must not take our eyes of this problem while we fight the COVID 19 pandemic. We must not let the notable strides we have made in recent years to come to nothing due to a shift of focus from Malaria to COVID-19. No doubt there has been some progress in the fight against Malaria prior to this outbreak. A recent article published in early 2017 pointed towards both a reduction in the incidence of Malaria and reports of deaths attributable to the disease in the period under review 2001-2015. Experts say an estimated 6.2 million lives were saved across the African continent over this period, of which 5.9 million (95%) were that of children under the ages of five. This success was as a result of hard work and eternal vigilance on the part of all stakeholders. Sadly, this is being threatened with the emergence of the COVID 19 pandemic leading to a shift of focus, which in my thinking could have a devastating effect, imagine a COVID 19/Malaria double whammy, the prospect of such a combo is be better imagined than described.
My opinion is that all critical stakeholders in the fight against Malaria must get our public health practitioners and clinicians to multi-task as we must not sacrifice Malaria on the altar of COVID-19. Long after the battle against COVID 19 is fought and won Malaria will still be here with us so there is the need for us to stay the course.
The fight against COVID 19 has been characterized by terms associated with conventional warfare, phrases like front-line, the unseen enemy, lines of defense, brave heroes, and so on, have become part of our pandemic lexicon. So to underscore our present problem I will also like to add to the characterization, we are fighting a battle that has two fronts; one is Malaria the other is COVID 19. It is important that for both fronts we bring to bear the full weight of the Nigerian healthcare system backed by all critical stakeholders so we will not in an attempt to solve one problem exacerbate an existing one.
Today is World Malaria Day 2021, the rallying cry being ‘ZERO MALARIA STARTS WITH ME’. The slogan according to Dr. Dave Knight was designed to keep Malaria initiatives out there so that with the challenges posed by COVID-19, Malaria will not be neglected.
Greenlife Pharmaceuticals on its part will continue to make available affordable and efficacious Malaria commodities such as ACTs which are key components in the success so far achieved.
Derrick Osondu MPSN, Greenlife Pharmaceuticals Limited.