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Investing In Malaria Research, Best Way To Eliminate Disease, Say Experts

An estimated 100 million malaria cases and about 300,000 deaths each year make Nigeria the country with the highest number of malaria fatalities worldwide

Angela Onwuzoo

Malaria experts have said that more strategic planning, effective partnership with investment of more resources in to malaria research remain the best way to eliminate malaria scourge in the country.

The experts said this at a Symposium organised last week by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos to mark 2015 World Malaria Day.

World Malaria Day is commemorated every April 25 to draw attention to the ailment and scale-up strategies to eliminate the disease.

The theme for this year`s commemoration was `Invest in the Future, Defeat Malaria`.

Dr Jide Idris, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, in his keynote address said that malaria was a deadly mosquito-borne disease which had remained an issue of public health concern.

“An estimated 100 million malaria cases and about 300,000 deaths each year make Nigeria the country with the highest number of malaria cases and fatalities worldwide.

“Malaria is responsible for 60 percent of outpatient visits to health facilities, 30 percent of childhood deaths, 25 percent of deaths in children under one year, and 11 per cent of maternal death, “ he said

Idris explained that the use of the Long Lasting Insecticide Nets (LLINs) remained one of the most effective malaria vector control methods available to date in the fight against malaria.

He added that the LLINs acted as a physical barrier and prevented mosquitos from gaining access to individuals sleeping under it.

“The Lagos State Government had been employing a multi-pronged approach including environmental management and integrated vector control, appropriate diagnosis and treatment of malaria cases.

“As well as prevention of malaria in pregnancy and operational research, while using its results for evidenced based programming and planning.

“I urged the public to take appropriate actions through what is called attitudinal change in order to help the sustenance of the gains made so far in the malaria eradication efforts in the state, “ he said.

Dr Samson Awolowo, Head of Malaria Research Group of the Institute attributed the high rate of death due to malaria to the widespread of fake medicines and parasite resistance to malaria drugs.

Awolola said that mosquitoes resistance to insecticides and lack of fund for malaria research also contributed to the high cases of the ailment in Nigeria.

“We need more funding into malaria research if we want to totally address these challenges and reduce deaths due to malaria, “ he added.

Also speaking, Prof. Olubunmi Otubanjo, a Professor of Parasitology at the University of Ibadan said that malaria prevention and control should not be left out in the era of change as Nigeria begins a new dispensation.

Otubanjo said that Nigeria contributed to one-quarter of all malaria cases in Africa and the incoming government should place high priority on prevention and control of the malaria.

“Malaria should not be left out in this era of change with more funding to healthcare, effective partnership, and sustained political will to ensure a malaria-free nation, “ she said.

Dr Tolu Arowolo, a representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said there was the need to generate public awareness about the dangers of poor quality malaria drugs.

Arowolo said that education campaigns would also help the public make more informed choices about preventive measures like insecticide-treated bed nets and residual indoor spraying.

The President, Malaria Society of Nigeria, Dr John Puddicombe, said controlling and preventing malaria required a collaborative effort from all sectors of the society.

He said that everyone could help a great deal in advocacy, social mobilisation campaigns as no single person or unit could do it alone. “Just as the government at all levels has the responsibility to strengthen the health system, individually and as a group, the citizens also have a big stake.

“We have the responsibility of protecting ourselves and our children from malaria by using insecticide-treated nets, draining of stagnant water and keeping our environment clean, “ he said.

In his remarks, Prof. Innocent Ujah, Director- General of NIMR called for increased funding of malaria research to save lives and further expand access to malaria diagnosis and treatment.

Ujah who was represented by Dr. Nkiruka Odunubwe, Director, Research and Clinical Sciences Division of the institute, said that NIMR was committed to policy driven research studies that could inform policy formulation and implementation in malaria management control and elimination.

He, however, called on individuals, philanthropists and corporate bodies to support the institute in the quest to eliminate malaria through research.

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