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Together we can fight the scourge of Malaria

World Malaria Day - Malaria torch
© UNICEF Nigeria/2008/Njoku
Nigeria's Minister of Health, Dr. Hassan Lawal, receiving the 'Malaria Torch' during the celebration of World Malaria Day in Abuja.

Abuja, April 25, 2008 - The World Malaria Day in Nigeria this year took a new and different dimension with the introduction of a novel feature in the form of the “Malaria torch.” The torch was received by the Nigerian Minister of Health, Dr. Hassan Lawal today; symbolising that working together in synergy would help conquer the scourge of malaria. The torch had travelled through several states of the country, crossing many state borders to symbolise the ubiquity of the disease and finally arrived the Federal capital territory today where a week-long activity to commemorate the first World Malaria Day was concluded with a rally. Other activities of the day included a football match and an educational drama involving a constructed model of a mosquito.

The theme of this first World Malaria Day is "Malaria, a disease without borders" with the slogan: "Fight malaria, invest in the future”.

This is the first World Malaria Day (WMD). But April 25 of every year was designated Africa Malaria Day following the Abuja-Nigeria Summit on Roll Back Malaria on April 25, 2000. At that summit, African Heads of State resolved, among other things, that by 2005, at least 60% of those suffering from malaria have prompt access to and are able to correctly use affordable and appropriate treatment; at least 60% of those at risk of malaria, particularly children under five years of age and pregnant women, benefit from protective measures such as insecticide treated mosquito nets; and at least 60% of all pregnant women who are at risk of malaria have access to presumptive intermittent treatment.

Subsequently, 25 April was set aside for the commemoration of this event and to monitor progress made towards attainment of the targets. The momentum created by the summit, the declarations and the global urgency to mitigate the scourge of malaria led to a re-designation of the day as World Malaria Day (WMD).

Malaria is a serious health problem. It affects between 300 to 500 million people annually with more than 1 million deaths. It affects mostly young children under the age of five and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa resulting in a death rate of nearly 3,000 every day. In Africa malaria causes approximately 20% of all child deaths and in Nigeria over 400,000 children die annually due to this preventable disease.

Since that declaration in 2000, efforts to control malaria has led to the distribution of 15 million insecticide treated nets covering 6 million households in Nigeria out of about 28 million households. This means that children and pregnant women living in 22 million households are still vulnerable to the scourge of malaria.

In the last ten years, UNICEF has been part of both the Global and country level Roll Back Malaria Initiative including in Nigeria. UNICEF supported the first African Summit on Roll Back Malaria, which took place in April 2000 in Abuja, Nigeria.
UNICEF remains committed to the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) goals and has been coordinating the networking with RBM Partners in the promotion of Insecticides Treated mosquito Nets (ITNs) in the country since the Summit in 2000. 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. And this year, UNICEF expects to procure over 150,000 LLINs for children under five and pregnant women in UNICEF focus Local Government Areas.

While receiving the malaria torch, the Minister noted that local actions were necessary if we are to win this fight against malaria. He appreciated the support given by the International development partners, including UNICEF, through the Roll Back Malaria Initiative partnership but called for simple acts of environmental sanitation and the use of insecticide treated nets by the people.

The government of Nigeria with the support of Development partners has set aside about $1.3 billion to fight malaria in the next three years. This step is in consonance with the theme of today - to fight malaria and invest in the future.

 

 
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