World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the Nigerian Government not to forget about other diseases amid the Novel Coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic outbreak in the country.
Dr Fiona Braka, the Officer in Charge, (OIC) WHO Country Office, Nigeria said this while fielding questions from Journalists at the Presidential task force on COVID-19 daily press briefing against the backdrop of the commemoration of the World Malaria Day celebration.
Supreme Learnt that the theme of World Malaria Day 2020, “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” is a grassroots campaign, first launched in Senegal in 2014.
It aims at engaging everyone from policy-makers to the private sector to communities affected by malaria.
The OIC said that the World Malaria Day drew attention to the devastating impact of this disease on families, communities and societies.
“As the world grapples with COVID-19, this is an opportunity to highlight the importance of maintaining robust health systems and continuing delivery of essential health services in times of crisis,” she said.
She stated that African countries including Nigeria have led a massive effort to control the disease and Algeria was certified malaria free in 2019.
Braka however, said that there were still 213 million cases in the WHO African Region in 2018, accounting for 93 percent of cases worldwide.
She disclosed that every year over 400, 000 people die of malaria, and 94 percent of these deaths occur in the African Region.
“Children under five years are the most vulnerable group, accounting for 67 percent of deaths.
“This situation remains alarming and inequitable,” she noted.
Braka said that through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), countries had committed to ending the malaria epidemic by 2030.
She stated that the E-2020 Malaria Elimination initiative was launched in 2017 and to halt rising cases, mainly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, WHO’s High Burden to High Impact approach was launched in 2018.
“A year ago, pilot testing of the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS’S, started in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. So far, 275 000 children have received the vaccine.
“This action is commendable, but we are falling short on the 2020 milestone of a 40 percent reduction in cases and deaths, and will need to double our efforts to achieve a 75 percent reduction by 2025, she stated.
The OIC said that greater political commitment, accelerated investment, and more innovation in malaria prevention and control were urgently required in the country.
“Together, we must recognize that as long as malaria exists, it threatens the poorest and most vulnerable, and has the potential to resurge in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic facing us now, “she said.
The OIC called on the government to allocate resources, to work across sectors, and to strengthen cross-border collaboration to control malaria in the country.
She said that with the required financing, strong coordination, dedicated partners and engaged communities, Nigeria will be a malaria-free Nation.