NIGERIA remains the nation with the highest cases of malaria in the world, 74 years after launching its National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP).
The 2021 World Malaria Report – the latest report on the disease – shows that Nigeria accounts for about 32 per cent (31.9) of deaths from malaria, the largest globally.
The report also showed that the country contributes about 27 per cent (26.8) of the global burden of the disease.
Checks by our reporter showed that Nigeria accounted for at least a quarter of global cases and deaths from malaria in the past two decades.
The situation in the country could stop the world from achieving a 90 per cent reduction in the global malaria burden by 2030, a strategy initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015.
The Guardian newspaper reported experts claiming that the country lost over 200,000 people to malaria in the past year.
The experts also said the nation lost $1.1 billion (N645.7 billion) yearly in preventing and treating the condition.
Since 1939, Nigeria has taken different measures to eliminate mosquitoes – malaria vectors. That year, the country formed the Drainage and Swamp Reclamation Board, followed by the Anti-mosquito ordinance in 1945, which established the Mosquito Control Board to carry out drainage works. Mosquito breeds in large quantities in every part of Nigeria.
In 1948, the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) was created as the Nigeria Malaria Service.
Among other initiatives and programmes, the NMCP changed to National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) in 2013, and the government launched the National Malaria Control Strategy 2014-2020 in 2014.
The programmes nevertheless, Nigeria has been the world’s malaria capital.
In a message to commemorate the 2022 Malaria Day, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said in the last year, about 95 per cent of the estimated 228 million cases of malaria occurred in the West Africa region, along with 602,020 reported deaths.
She said six African countries, the worst impacted by malaria in the region, accounted for up to 55 per cent of cases globally and 50 per cent of the deaths.
Moeti said: “The past year has seen significant breakthroughs in malaria prevention and control, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Landmark recommendations on using the first vaccine against malaria – RTS, S – were released by the World Health Organization late last year.
“This vaccine will be used to prevent malaria among children aged six months to five years, who live in moderate- to high-transmission settings.
“While this is a groundbreaking advance in developing new tools to fight this disease, with the potential to save millions of lives, supplies are currently limited.”
She said despite the challenges faced, the world had fared better in malaria control than in 2000.
According to her, the RTS, S vaccine pilots in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi had reached up to 900 000 children.
While urging increased support for communities on malaria control, she appealed to governments in the region to renew commitment and encourage sustained investment in malaria prevention and control.
The 2021 World Malaria Report estimates 14 million more malaria cases and 47 000 more deaths in 2020 compared to 2019.
The WHO said US$ 3.3 billion was spent to fight the disease in 2020 and would need to more than triple the amount in the next ten years to implement the global strategy successfully.