The Director of Health Programmes at UNICEF, Dr. Aboubacar Kampo has blamed national health systems in several malaria endemic countries for failure to provide appropriate malaria testing and treatment services for their citizens who experience episodes of malaria whenever they need it.
Kampo who made his view known during a webinar which held recently lamented that 459,000 mostly children died from malaria last year 2020, irrespective of the fact that malaria was a preventable and treatable disease.
Consequently, he reasoned that those deaths recorded from malaria last year signifies failure of those health systems, “my failure, your failure and our failure because zero malaria starts with me, you and everyone in the society.”
The webinar, which was organised by The RBM Partnership to End Malaria and the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) has the theme: ‘Ensuring All Fevers are Treated: Why Care-Seeking Behaviour Must Continue During COVID-19’.
He therefore urged the national health systems and other nations that suffer malaria, to rise to the occasion by discharging their responsibilities through the provision of adequate and quality malaria services that meet the needs of the people.
He explained that there was no reason anyone should die from malaria, considering there were appropriate tools, technology and medicines to test every fever case and treat them effectively.
Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that while the African continent is responsible for 94 per cent of global malaria cases, Nigeria is responsible for 27 per cent of global cases of malaria.
Kampo said, “When we looked at the data from 2015 to 2019, on those who had fever and went to health facilities to seek care, we found that out of 61 per cent of people who had fever and went to health facilities, 31 of 100 did not have access to that care for testing and the treatment for malaria.
“Also, among all those that went to the facility, 31 per cent did not get tested for malaria. What this means is that people are not getting the services they need, meaning that some are being left behind.
“Also, 19 per cent of those who were tested still did not get appropriate treatment.”
Consequently, he said that the failure of the health system is such that some people do not go to get service that may be available; those who go for service may not get all the services they need; and those who get service may get inappropriate treatment contrary to national guidelines for the treatment of malaria.
He added that the health systems in the affected countries must deal with these issues to ensure that no one dies unnecessarily from malaria.
Kampo similarly said another reason people still die from malaria is due to the failure of individuals, families, members of communities, or delay in getting family members suffering malaria to health facilities for urgent medical attention.
Similarly, 25 per cent of people with fever do not get access to care, according to Kampo. “They do not go to seek care; this needs to be reversed,” he stressed.
On his part, the Regional Malaria Adviser for the African Region at the WHO, Dr. Kalu Akpaka warned against diverting funds into COVID-19, while denying other medical conditions and malaria infections needed attention.
According to him, this neglect and the panic from COVID-19 end up instilling fear in the minds of people who are ill and prevent them seeking medical attention in health facilities.
On the contrary, Akpaka reasoned: “We need to continue the malaria fight; it is one of the main killer diseases. It is no longer acceptable that we should be recording malaria deaths in 2020 till date.
“This is about making the primary health centres (PHC) functional and making sure that people join hands to strengthen the health system, improve PHCs, ensure the attainment of universal health coverage (UHC) and increase budget for health.
Furthermore, Akpaka called for the extension of appropriate health services in far-to-reach communities in addition to bringing the private sector on board as well as boosting human resources for health, all of which should be geared to curbing malaria infections and deaths.