Malaria is the number one killer disease in the world, especially in the tropics, and for the past two centuries, all efforts to find a cure has proved abortive. The malaria- causing plasmodium parasite has developed resistance to drugs such as quinine. Today, only a combination therapy of two or more anti-malaria drugs can effectively give the patient a measure of relief. Even the natural body mechanism to fight it has resulted in more terrible diseases such as sickle cell anaemia.
While medical researchers are battling with curative remedies, efforts are ongoing to manage the preventive aspects. Basic hygiene of keeping the environment clean, doing away with stagnant water pools and sleeping under malaria treated nets are the main focus of health authorities. According to the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), it costs the nation about N480 billion annually for the prevention and treatment of the disease. This, it said, excludes the loss of man hours due to malaria- induced ailments.
Statistics show that Nigeria contributes a quarter of the malaria burden in Africa as 97 per cent of the total population is at risk. It is with this in mind that the Programme is promoting the Long Lasting Insecticides Nets (LLINs) and intends to distribute one free LLIN to every two persons in Nigeria and to achieve a household usage of at least 80 percent. This will, hopefully, contribute to the reduction of mortality and morbidity rates by 50 per cent.
We commend the effort of the NMEP just as we stress that mosquito nets alone cannot conquer malaria. After all, people get bitten by mosquitoes everywhere and the first line of defence in most homes is mosquito nets on windows and doors. People also use insecticides to fumigate their homes from time to time. But in spite of all these efforts, the scourge of malaria persists. In the past, there were health officers of government serving as sanitary inspectors and fumigators who go round from neighbourhood to neighbourhood spraying chemicals against all harmful insects. But today, this facility is no longer available. The Government, in our opinion, is no longer sufficiently involved in the eradication of mosquitos.
In addition to the effort of the NMEP, we think the government must take to the frontlines in the effort to contain the threat of malaria because, in our view, the abysmal record against this country as stated above, is the reflection of how poorly the country has been handling the campaign against the disease.
Private sector bodies, especially the chemical industries, have a responsibility to their host communities to be involved in this battle. There are already several international humanitarian organisations involved in this war, such as the Bill Gates foundation. However, we assert that only a massive concerted effort spearheaded by the government will bring in a meaningful result.