By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Malaria fever is one medical challenge that confronts millions of Nigerians and when it strikes, it hangs precariously like a sword of Damocles and poses some of the most disturbing disruptions to virtually all of our economic, social, religious and cultural activities.
As humans, medical ailment is that which we must confront us. Man/Woman is a mortal being.
But due to advances in medicine and science, there are certain medical conditions that have been eradicated.
Malaria fever which as far back as a century ago constituted a global threat has in our own time been successfully wiped out by some nations of the World in Asia, Europe and the United Kingdom.
But it has still remained very much one of the biggest and most fatal health conditions afflicting much of Africa and Nigeria despite the enormity of Nigeria’s human and natural resources.
If the Federal ministry of health in Nigeria conducts a referendum with the sole question of gauging or getting an assessment of the mind or heartbeat of millions of Nigerians regarding the need to eradicate malaria, it is almost a certainty, which is as constant as the Northern star that virtually all Nigerians will positively approve that the Nigerian state should invest substantially in the eradication of malaria.
The question to ask is how come the eradication of malaria fever has never enjoyed a place of high priority amongst the Nigerian nation and why do we keep reeling out the high toll that malaria has had and continue to unleash on the public space with millions of people already been sent to their untimely demise by malaria fever which some serious minded nations have eradicated but yet Nigeria has evolved a vaccine nor have we eradicated the very specie of Mosquitoes that breed Malaria fever?
The interrogatory is almost the same as trying to unravel why with enormous mineral resources that Nigeria is endowed with, poverty is still a major challenge to the most deadly dimension that in 2018, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world.
Mind you, the fact that Nigeria churned out over 90 million people that are absolutely poor, means that the impacts of malaria fever has multiplied because malaria is a disease of poverty.
Perhaps this was what motivated the then Nigerian president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to invest a lot of resources to host a continental forum on malaria eradication which in any event fizzled out as soon as the talk shop ended. Then, government and the African Union worked out a master plan on the eradication of Malaria but it has yet to be actualized.
Again, there is an innovative initiative by a private Nigerian citizen and a onetime law maker Prince Ned Nwoko and his wife Regina Daniels Nwoko to embark on the complex challenge of finding lasting cure to malaria and to eradicate malaria from the face of Nigeria. This is indeed a Herculean task.
This is a worthy idea but it is an idea whose time has come that also would need the support of all and sundry including President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly, the Nigerian people, the African Union and all Africans.
This is precisely because if malaria is eradicated in Nigeria, it will open the flood gate of scientific possibility of wiping off malaria fever from Africa.
This is because of the demographical nature of Nigeria which is home to four out of every black living human being on the planet earth.
The awareness of the initiative by the Delta state born philanthropist and politician Prince Ned Nwoko to wage a determined battle against malaria fever came to me today just as I was taken the last prescription of drugs against malaria which I usually do yearly about this festive season.
You my reader can imagine the joy in my heart when I read that the Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation hereby respectfully invites you to the world Press Conference by its chairman, Prince (Dr) Ned Nwoko and his wife, Regina Daniels Nwoko. The conference is on their Antarctica Expedition to flag off Prince Ned Nwoko Foundation’s Mosquito Elimination and Malaria Vaccine Research Project. The Foundation plans to collaborate with relevant stakeholders at both local and international levels to create awareness on ways of eradicating the mosquito vector that causes malaria in Africa and put a permanent end to the malaria scourge.
“After the expedition in January 2020, Prince (Dr) Ned Nwoko, through his foundation, will institute an Endowment for research on malaria vaccine in selected universities across Africa. this is with a view of putting a permanent end to the mosquito scourge in Africa.”
“It is our expectation that National, International and multilateral agencies that are concerned about the subject matter will collaborate with the foundation in this programme.”
“This project is in fulfillment of one of the objectives of PRINCE NED NWOKO FOUNDATION and the mandate of United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG goal 3 for good health).”
This ground breaking initiative is such that should elicit the interest of all Nigerians and Africans because of the realization that the goal is attainable because it has been done elsewhere as I stated earlier including China which is one nation that is home to the greatest number of human beings on earth. China became independent only ten years before us. But due to dint of hardwork and resilience of their successive government with necessary institutional frameworks that eradicate official corruption, China is Malaria fever free today but Nigeria remains a poverty and malaria fever stricken entity.
The World Health Organization takes China as a model of a people whose determination has resulted in the resolution of the malaria fever infestation amongst millions of their people.
This is how the global health body lauded China. It says that China is celebrating a major health achievement: the country has not recorded a single indigenous case of malaria since August 2016. This is a notable feat in a place where the disease has historically taken a huge toll. In the 1940s, there were an estimated 30 million cases of malaria and 300 000 deaths each year.
“I come from a village where malaria epidemics were common,” recalls Professor Yang Henglin, who is now a senior advisor on malaria at the Yunnan Institute of Parasitic Diseases. “Among my father’s generation, I had 2 older uncles who died probably as a result of severe malaria infection.”
Professor Yang has been involved in malaria control for 45 years. His work directing the malaria elimination strategy in Yunnan Province has helped lead to a dramatic drop in indigenous malaria cases: from 400 000 in 1953 to zero in 2016.
In 1955, China established a National Malaria Control Programme. Communities rallied to improve irrigation, reduce mosquito breeding grounds, use insecticide spraying and sleep under bed nets. Health authorities worked to locate and stop the spread of outbreaks.
Progress was steady. By the end of 1990, the total number of cases nationwide had plummeted to some 117 000, and malaria-related deaths were reduced by 95%.1
With support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, beginning in 2003, China stepped up the training, staffing, laboratory equipment, medicines and mosquito control measures that were needed to quickly find, treat and prevent malaria cases. Global Fund support totaling over US$ 100 million was disbursed over a 10-year period to help end malaria in 762 counties. In that time, the number of malaria cases fell to fewer than 5000 per year.
In 2010, China according to WHO set an ambitious target: to eliminate malaria by 2020. This was a response to the country’s progress in malaria control and to the malaria target of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals, which called for halting and reversing the incidence of the disease by the year 2015.
Through a sweeping agreement, 13 ministries – including those representing health, education, finance, research and science, development, public security, the army, police, commerce, industry and information technology, media and tourism – joined forces to end the risk of malaria nationwide.
“We realized that it was necessary to cooperate with all relevant departments and involve the whole of society in order to achieve the malaria goals,” says He Qinghua, Deputy Director-General of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control at China’s National Health Commission.
One feature of China’s way of working is the replication of ministries and departments from the capital through to the provinces, prefectures, counties, townships and villages. If Beijing makes a policy, each level follows.
In Meng La County, on the border with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), it’s easy to find national policies translated into local action. Ms Yi Yue, Deputy Director of the county People’s Congress, explains how local ministries work closely together.
“Every year, we host a working group meeting with the 13 ministries, including the Ministries of Health and Finance, she said. “We discuss what we achieved, the current challenges, and plan strategies for the coming year. In this way, we work efficiently to achieve the goal of malaria elimination.”
In recent years, China has also fully invested in national efforts to stamp out the disease. Since 2014, the country has paid for its entire malaria elimination programme through domestic resources.
“The Government has demonstrated its commitment to malaria elimination by dedicating funding,” says Professor Yang Henglin. “Government commitment, together with the dedication of Chinese malaria experts, and the early support – in particular from the Global Fund – has led to success here.”
Ms Yi also notes that the Meng La County allots some of its own budget to the programme, as do other priority counties.
This is why we need to support Prince Ned Nwoko to achieve the objective of his anti-malaria project. This is because of the dangers inherent in us not doing anything to eradicate Malaria fever which has unleashed consequences of monumental economic proportions.
From www.hcs.harvard.edu, Malaria is said to be one of the most serious health problems facing the world today. The World Health Organization estimates that over 300 million new cases of malaria arise a year, with approximately two to three million deaths resulting from contraction. Malaria is endemic in tropical Africa, with an estimated 90% of the total malaria incidence and deaths occurring there, particularly amongst pregnant women and children. More specifically, malaria is causing various problems in Nigeria. Malaria is the only vector borne disease to be placed on World Health Organization’s Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYS) list.
The writers stated that it is important to look at health problems like malaria that grossly affect the morbidity and mortality rates, as well as the economy of a developing country, such as Nigeria.
The write up aforementioned stated that Nigeria has a population of about 123.9 million people then it rationalized that a large percentage of its population lives in extreme poverty in rural areas, without access to potable water and adequate healthcare.
Nigeria it says is also a low-income country already saddled with a huge foreign debt burden just as the current government has set out to go a borrowing to the tune of over $30 billion which may very well end up in the pockets of government officials due to high procurement corruption in the current administration.
The piece we are looking through stated that Nigeria risks sinking further into debt as it struggles with a sick populace whose good health is essential for its economic growth.
“Traditionally, Chloroquine was a common treatment for Malaria. However, with the increase in chloroquine resistant malaria, additional methods of control must be employed”.
It argues that a multidimensional approach should be used in the control strategy, such as good management of clinical malaria, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITBN), education and training programs in malaria prevention, vaccine research and the use of insecticide spraying such as DDT on breeding sites. It is also necessary to explore the use of indigenous natural mosquito repellant plant species.
Also, scientists say that pharmaceutical companies should study local anti-malarial herbs to determine their efficacy on malaria and effective and safe dosages should be found.
“The answer to malaria control may lie within local communities. Policies pertaining to the use of impregnated (soaked in insecticide) bed nets would be doubly advantageous and economical in rural areas”.
It added that culturally, the two most susceptible groups of people, pregnant mothers and infant children, tend to sleep together. Walls of mud huts in rural areas should be white washed to avoid attracting mosquitoes. Cracks and crevices where stagnant water can collect should be sealed. Partial funding for malaria control projects could be generated internally if the Nigerian government collected a levy from companies that are involved in activities that pollute the environment. Oil companies working in the Niger Delta areas, where there are many marshy swamps and a high prevalence of malaria should also be asked to contribute to a general malaria control fund.
From these reports we have copiously cited, it is clear that the Anti-Malaria challenge about to be inaugurated by Prince Ned Nwoko a Celebrated philanthropist may take a lot of commitments and partnership beginning from the grassroots to the governmental levels and must be sustained and not seen as a mere carnival.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and blogs @ www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.thenigerianinsidernews.com; www.emmanuelonwubiko.com. Additional information was from Miss Queen Onwughalu and Alexandra Gekpe.