Experts warn that malaria infection is increasingly responsible for Nigerians dying from the Covid-19 pandemic and vice-versa, since about 97 per cent of the population is at risk of the mosquito-borne infection.
The experts are raising alarm that the focus on the containment of COVID-19 has led to neglect of the control of other important diseases, especially malaria.
They claim this leads to the loss of the gains made over the years. It is becoming very evident that disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and lack of access to anti-malaria medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year, compared to 2018.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and pharmacists, under the aegis of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), yesterday, ahead of today’s World Malaria Day (WMD), with the theme: “Zero Malaria begins with me,” said they were upscaling their acts in the prevention and treatment of malaria since it is a risk factor and could increase the case fatality of COVID-19.
While not de-emphasisng the need to tackle Covid-19, they are geared to ensure that other killer diseases such as malaria are not neglected.
They spur countries to ensure the continuity of malaria services in the context of the pandemic, provided that best practices to protect health workers and communities are followed.
PSN President, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said Plasmodium falciparum is the most prevalent malaria parasite in Nigeria, accounting for 99.7 per cent of estimated malaria cases, adding that children under the age of five years, pregnant women and immune-compromised persons are most vulnerable.
Dr. Francis Faduyile and Olumuyiwa Odusote, President and Secretary General of the Nigerian Medical Association, (respectively) appealed to the Nigerian government to speed up actions on distributing PPEs to public and private hospitals without delay.
The NMA advised Nigerians to as much as possible, avoid self-medication, but rather report to healthcare facilities, as malaria and COVID-19 share similar symptoms.
Households are also sensitised to clear out drains and bushes around their homes and continue to sleep under insecticide-treated nets and observe all precautionary measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
The governments at all levels are advised not to de-prioritise the programmes and activities aimed at making Nigeria malaria-free, but to invest more resources towards the cause – though the world may be focusing much more on the Cover-19 now.