Every year, precisely on April 25, Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark World Malaria Day. On such occasion, government at all levels make promises on their intention to eradicate malaria in their domain. Such promises, which in most cases are made in carefully worded languages, have since been taken like that of Tunji Braithwaite, who in 1983, while campaigning on the platform of Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP), promised to eradicate all mosquitoes and cockroaches in the country if he was made the President.
There is no doubt that malaria is a serious public health issue and has reportedly killed over a million people yearly in Africa. Unfortunately, and despite the fact malaria has been here with us since the advent of Missionaries, Africa has continued to grapple with it with the attendant loss of precious lives. In 2016, during the first World Malaria Day celebration by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, he pledged to support researchers in the state to end the scourge of malaria, saying it was time government was involved in the search for a permanent solution to the scourge. The theme for that year’s celebration was; “End Malaria for Good” and Ayade, who was represented by his Deputy, Prof. Evara Esu, said the state was committed to ending the scourge of malaria, hence the need to support researchers with adequate funding to find solution to the disease. He advised researchers to put forward their research proposal to the state government through the state Ministry of Health for consideration. “As a state, we are committed to getting rid of malaria. We are calling on researchers to put forward their research proposal through the state Ministry of Health for consideration.
We will support good research proposals that would lead to the total eradication of malaria in the state,” the governor had said. He added: “We have recruited the best brains into our primary healthcare centres to lower the cases of malaria in the state and if a proper research is conducted, we are certain to win the fight against malaria.”
An excited Commissioner for Health, Dr Inyang Asibong, who was also young on the job said her ministry would do all it could to ensure that insecticide treated nets were distributed freely to every household in the state. According to her, the ministry would partner with other relevant health agencies in the state in ensuring the eradica-tion of malaria. Her words: “We are moving from house to house, community to community, to ensure that every household gets the free insecticides nets.” Speaking on measures put in place by the state government to reduce the prevalence of the disease, the Director General of the State Primary Health Care Agency, Dr Betta Edu, said her agency has been sensitizing the public on the need for hygiene and the use of treated nets. “The vulnerable groups of people to malaria are pregnant women and children. The state government has a free treatment programme for pregnant women and children under five.
We are going to consolidate on this and ensure that more pregnant women get tested and are provided with the essential drugs,’’ she said. Four years after all those promises, mosquitoes, rather than abate, have increased in potency, thereby increasing the rate of mortality as well as morbidity. It is however, gratifying to note that there is a renewed fight against mosquitoes using the Long Lasting Insecticide Nets, which the United States is cur-rently spending N2.3 billion in order for Cross River State to be safe and free from mosquitoes. According to Dr. Iwara Iwara, Director of Public Health in the Ministry of Health in Cross River State, who briefed Journalists on the campaign that the ministry, in conjunction with agencies of the Federal Government, will begin for the distribution of the treated nets in the state. Iwara said the state government was determined to have “a zero-malaria state,” and disclosed that about 2.6 insecticide treated nets “have been mopped up.”
The revelation that the United States was spending a whopping N2.3 billion the 2,376,400 insecticide treated nets that would be distributed in the state between June 8 and 12 came from Mr. Kingsley Godwin, Malaria Logistic Advisor of Global Health. Another interesting discovery by Journalists during the interaction was the fact that national guidelines for malaria control frowns at men being present at the distribution centre of the nets. This, Kingsley Godwin said, was because “in 2009, when the insecticide treated nets were introduced in Nigeria, there was a stampede to the extent that men brutalized women.”
Since then, he said, men have been excluded from having access to the nets from the distribution centre. But the last exercise of formally distributing nets to the public was done in 2015 in Cross River State. Since then, not much has been heard about it until now. Now that another opportunity to distribute the nets has come, Kingsley advised the general public to take advantage of it and renew their covenant with sleeping in the nets, while appealing for political support and commitment and resource availability to making the campaign a success. He also appealed to community leaders and members to feel motivated to receive and use the long lasting insecticide nets as well as seeking private sector support for the campaign as part of their social responsibility.
It is commendable for the state and federal governments to jointly utilize the benevolence of the American government, but benevolence would be better appreciated by the citizens if the home government plans a sustainable way of tackling malaria if and when foreign bodies pull out. Importantly, it is not in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians that no vaccine has been found to be effective in treating malaria or ending the scourge of malaria once and for all.
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