The Federal Ministry of Health has raised alarm over the threat of an increase in mortality rates associated with malaria, especially as the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak looms in Nigeria.
The government also warned against disruptions in the provision of services, lamenting that the fear and stigma associated with COVID-19 has continued to hinder free access to malaria treatment and care.
Prof Olugbenga Mokuolu, a Technical Director at the National Malaria Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, who raised these concerns at a media dialogue, explained that the pandemic threatens to undermine gains made in malaria control, following disruptions in supply chains, interventions and diversion of government resources to coronavirus.
Mokolu lamented that despite efforts to check malaria, Nigeria still contributes about 25% of the global burden of the disease as annually about 81, 640 Nigerians die from malaria and its related complications, accounting for 19% of the world’s malaria deaths.
He said in 2020, monthly averages saw almost three million cases of fever reported, less than two million tested while about one point five million cases were confirmed positive for malaria.
‘‘Records from the District Health Information System (DHIS) showed that a monthly average of 2,241,653 cases of fever was reported at health facilities nationwide, only 1,988,254 representing 88% were tested while 1,468,110 cases returned positive,’’ he explained.
“In Nigeria, there was the challenge of failure to seek care because of fear. People saw the hospital as a place you could contract COVID-19. There were delays in seeking care.
“For the malaria elimination programme, there were threats to planned intervention and control activities following the lockdown.
“Because of COVCID-19, we stood the risk of a two to three-fold increase in mortality if nothing was done. This was the context in which we needed to respond as a national malaria program to the pandemic,” he added.
However, the National Coordinator, NMEP, Dr. Audu Bala Mohammed now says the programme has taken steps to bridge the gap created by COVID-19 with the distribution of over 17 million insecticide-treated nets to Nigerians in six states.
‘‘Almost thirteen million eligible children in 9 states were reached with the Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC), a preventive measure targeting children between 3 and 59 months of age within the Sahel region,’’ said.