Thursday, August 13, 2009

Malaria in Nigeria

Fatima (age of 31) has "seen five children into the world." Two of her babies have "died of malaria. When a member of her family falls ill, it is to home remedies and prayer to which Fatima turns. Living in a village in northern Nigeria that is 25 kilometres from the nearest town and without a health clinic or registered drug store, she has little choice" (DFID). [Photo from the DFID]

"Malaria is endemic in Nigeria with about 97% of the population at risk of infection" (Roll). "In Nigeria, malaria causes the deaths of an estimated 250,000 children under the age of five" and a total of 300,000 children every year (UNICEF). In 2007, there were nearly 5.5 million reported cases of malaria in Nigeria (Roll). "Malaria occurs in all parts of Nigeria, including large cities. Transmission is very intense, thus the risk of getting bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito is very high" (CDC).

"Nigeria, with a population of 148 million, contributes a quarter of the malaria burden in Africa - 50% of the population will have at least one malaria attack each year" (DFID). Many will go unreported and untreated by medical professionals. Clinics are overloaded with the sick and many individuals cannot reach or afford medical help. Still, "malaria is responsible for about 66 per cent of all clinic visits in Nigeria. Health workers are sometimes forced to work overtime, and doctors and nurses can be on duty for over 12 hours a day. Still, women and children have to wait for hours before receiving medical consultation" (UNICEF).

"There is a lot of activity and momentum to combat malaria in Nigeria, but deadly gaps still exist. More needs to be done to prevent children from being infected and ensure access to quality malaria treatment," says Suomi Sakai (UNICEF Representative in Nigeria). Education of the local population "is an important part of UNICEF's malaria prevention work." Doctors and medical personnel must learn "how to prevent, recognize and treat malaria" (UNICEF). Furthermore, everyone needs to know how to properly protect themselves and their families from the mosquitoes that carry the deadly disease.

"However, even when people have been educated about malaria, poverty often stops them from seeking treatment. "Most can't afford the ITNs [Insecticide Treated Nets] or the ACT [Artemisinin-based combination therapy], which cures malaria," says Maryam Hashim (Wandi Primary Health Clinic).

Some level of resistance to malaria may exist in individuals suffering from blood disorders and those who have suffered "repeated attacks of malaria"; however, precautions to avoid mosquito bites should not be overlooked (CDC). Unfortunately, many misconceptions about malaria and its transmission exist. "Persons who were born in Nigeria are NOT protected against malaria, contrary to what many people think" (CDC).

"In 1998, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank came together in the Roll Back Malaria partnership, with the goal of halving the global burden of malaria by 2010...One of the objectives of Roll Back Malaria is to reduce malaria-related morbidity and mortality by 50 per cent in Nigeria by 2010, as well as to minimize the socio-economic impact of the disease" (UNICEF). This "intensive campaign" (lasting till December 2010) will distrubte "over 60 million around 30 million households during the campaign" (DFID). As part of this project, "over 800,000 Long Lasting Insecticide Nets and 55,000 long lasting insecticides kits for the re-treatment of mosquito nets have been procured and distributed by UNICEF in the past three years, with support from the Government of Japan" (UNICEF Nigeria).

Support Roll Back Malaria and its mission to reduce the number of malaria cases in Nigeria. You can also donate to Malaria No More to help provide mosquito nets to families who desperately need them.


CDC. Malaria: Nigeria.

DFID [Department for International Development]. Nigeria gears up to roll back malaria.

Roll Back Malaria Partnership. Nigeria.

UNICEF. Nigeria: Together we can fight the scourge of malaria.

UNICEF. "Partnering to roll back malaria in Nigeria's Bauchi State."

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